Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Saturday that he had ordered the Israeli army to prepare for the possibility of a military strike on Iran.
Gantz, who is currently in the U.S. to persuade them to ramp up the pressure on Iran, also informed Washington of this step, a senior defense official said.
In a briefing in Florida, Gantz said the nuclear talks have yielded "no progress" and that world powers "understand that the Iranians are playing games.”
On Thursday night, Gantz met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Washington. He said he told his American counterpart that “Iran currently has terrible cards; its economic situation is difficult. Therefore, there’s room for international pressure – diplomatic, economic and military – so that Iran will stop its fantasies about the nuclear program.”
Gantz and Austin also discussed increasing both countries’ preparedness to counter Iranian aggression.
On his U.S. trip, the Defense Minister also met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, as part of his effort to convince Washington to expand sanctions on Iran to pressure it into retreating from its nuclear program.
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Cranking up the coordination
Israel has made an effort to improve its coordination with the U.S. on the issue, and the Biden administration recognizes that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been more transparent than his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, the American sources added.
Earlier on Saturday, American sources involved in the Iranian issue said that Israel had briefed the Biden administration before carrying out two significant attacks on Iran in recent months. The sources were referring to a drone strike in June on a nuclear facility near Karaj, west of Tehran, and a fire that erupted in September at an Iranian Revolutionary Guards missile base west of Tehran.
The Iranian media reported in June that the attacked facility was a centrifuge manufacturing plant whose operation had been limited since 2011 by American sanctions. Regarding the fire that broke out in September, Iran’s official media quoted the Revolutionary Guards as saying that three people were hurt. The reports didn’t mention the source of the fire.
On Thursday, Reuters quoted a senior American official as saying that Gantz and Austin would discuss holding joint military exercises for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. A senior Iranian military official was quoted by the Iranian news agency Nournews on Saturday as warning that “Providing conditions for military commanders to test Iranian missiles with real targets will cost the aggressors a heavy price.”
Gantz also said that he discussed Israeli-Palestinian relations with American officials, primarily economic and civilian issues.
“The stronger the Palestinian Authority is, the weaker Hamas will be,” he said. “We won’t reach a diplomatic agreement under the current government, but we certainly should and can promote practical steps in the economic realm, and we’re doing so. I informed the Americans that in addition to the steps we have already taken, we’re working on additional steps, like bringing in a 4G cellular network, building in certain places in Area C and economic initiatives.”
Area C is the part of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control, according to the Oslo Accords.