Deputy Chief of Iran’s Armed Forces Gen. Mohammad Hejazi issued a new threat Tuesday, Feb. 21: “Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran’s national interests… we will act without waiting for their actions.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that an Iranian preemptive attack on Israel has been in the air for some weeks. It became realistic because the dragging out of the argument between Washington and Jerusalem over a military strike and the two government’s indecisiveness gave Tehran a golden opportunity to further its interests.
It bestowed on Iran the gift of entering into talks on its nuclear program with the six world powers (P5 plus 1) free of a military threat and therefore in a superior bargaining position. For openers, Tehran has already pocketed the Obama administration’s promise of permission to continue to enrich uranium up to 5 percent in any quantity and will be more than ready to lay down more demands.
Gen. Hejazi’s threat of a preemptive strike against Israel also serves the Islamic regime in its run-up to a general election on March 3. It aims to show the Iranian voter and Middle East public that Iran has successfully turned US and Israeli aggression against Iran against them and demonstrated they are no more than paper tigers incapable of carrying through on their rhetoric. The military initiative therefore stays in Iran’s hands.
In Tehran, the standard Israeli cliché of “We don’t’ advise anyone to test our resolve” has worn thin.
By letting two Iranian warships bearing arms for Assad pass Israel’s coast on its way to Tartus without interference, Israel encouraged Tehran to assume that, in the last reckoning, it will abstain from a unilateral strike to eradicate Iran’s nuclear facilities without Washington’s blessing.
The Netanyahu government’s resolve is expected to melt away under the bulldozer assault of one American emissary after another touching down at Ben-Gurion airport to corner them into backing down.
Once Israel lets its hands be tied, Tehran calculates, it will become progressively harder to break them loose, so that if Tehran does carry out a limited “preemptive” missile attack on the Jewish state, Jerusalem will again bow to Washington and let itself be coerced into not responding.
Thursday, Feb. 23, US National Director of Intelligence James Clapper arrives in Israel to tackle its military and intelligence chiefs on the question, after US National Defense Director Tom Donilon spent three days in fruitless discussions with government leaders Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff tried his hand at persuasion earlier this month. This cycle of pressure will peak with Netanyahu’s White House talks with President Obama on March 5.
The Iranians felt confident enough to safely deny requests from the team of IAEA inspectors who arrived in Tehran Monday for access suspect nuclear locations and meetings with scientists employed in their nuclear program.
Gen. Hejazi’s words were backed up by a four-day air defense exercise, dubbed Sarallah (God’s Revenge), in the south of the country. The Islamic Republic also took another initiative by cutting off oil exports to Britain and France and so turning the tables on the European Union’s oil embargo on Tehran.