Iran: US military fly B-52 bomber over Middle East

Israel’s top military chief has said the army is preparing to combat the threat posed by Iran and has ordered US President Joe Biden not to return to the Iran nuclear deal – even if the accord is strengthened. Lieutenant General Aviv Kohavi has said it would be “bad and wrong” for the US to sign back up to the international treaty and warned the Israeli army has been instructed to “prepare a number of operational plans”.

Former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018, which granted Iran economic sanction relief in return for curbs on its nuclear weapons programme.

The decision to abandon the treaty was supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who argued the treaty did not provide enough safeguards against Iran’s weapons programme.

The US is expected to sign back up to the deal put in place by former President Barack Obama in 2015 – an administration where Mr Biden served as Vice President.

Iran has since urged Washington to return to the treaty as soon as possible, but no formal decision has been made.

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Speaking at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, Lieutenant General Kohavi said: “A return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, or even if it is a similar accord with several improvements, is bad and wrong from an operational and strategic point of view.”

He said the military has been placed on standby for any developments in Iran.

Lieutenant General Kohavi added: “I instructed the army to prepare a number of operational plans in addition to the existing ones.

“We are taking care of these plans and will develop them during the coming year.

“Those who decide on carrying them out, of course, are the political leaders. But these plans have to be on the table.”

His stark warning on Tuesday, came just hours after Iran’s Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei warned Mr Biden that time could be running out to return to the deal.

He said: “The US will not have all the time in the world.

“We are waiting for the official announcement of their stance as well as the lifting of sanctions.”

Trita Parsi, an analyst from the Washington based Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said there was a real prospect of Israel going to war.

The former president of the National Iranian American Council, said: “Even before Biden took the oath of office, the Netanyahu government went after him extremely aggressively – took off the gloves right away – to try to pressure Biden not to go back to the nuclear deal

“One of Netanyahu’s ministers said publicly that if the United States rejoins the nuclear deal – which is something Biden believes lies in the US’ national interest – Israel would go to war.

“This is very serious at a very early stage.”

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Antony Blinken has been confirmed as US Secretary of State, and last week said the US was “a long way” from deciding on a return the Iran nuclear deal and insisted Mr Biden would consult his allies.

He said: “We would use that, as a platform with our allies and partners… to seek a longer and stronger agreement and also to capture these other issues, particularly with regard to missiles and Iran’s destabilising activities

“Having said that, I think we’re a long way from there.”

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