On October 3, 2021, an armed Azeri hit man contracted by the Iranians to assassinate a group of wealthy Israeli businessmen on the island of Cyprus, failed in his mission. The would-be assassin apparently crossed from the Turkish controlled northern part of the island with a Russian passport. The Israeli external intelligence agency – the Mossad, alerted the Israeli businessmen of the plan to assassinate them. They duly left the island, going back to Israel on a private plane owned by one of the Israelis. The brazen attempt by the Iranian regime to kill Israelis is apparently in revenge for the November 27, 2020 assassination of Moshen Fakhrizadeh, head of the Islamic Republic of Iran nuclear weapons program. The Mossad also warned the Cypriot police of the impending attack.
The Cyprus attempted assassination by the Iranians follows a similar attempted killing of Israeli businessmen a few weeks ago in Columbia’s capital, Bogota. In this case as well, the Mossad was able to foil Iran’s assassination plot, and informed the local police. The Israeli businessmen returned to Israel safely. It seems however, that Iran’s new President, Ebrahim Raisi, known as the “hangman Raisi of Tehran,” has decided to abandon his predecessor Hassan Rouhani’s cautious approach, and the avoidance of direct military engagement with Israel. The new audacious approach by the Iranians is raising concern among European and American security officials that Iran’s more aggressive posture toward Israel, and to some extent Azerbaijan, may lead to a direct armed conflict.
Jerusalem is concerned that the US might settle for another “soft” nuclear deal with Iran in the Vienna talks, when Iran is finally ready to talk. On October 5, 2021, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and his new Israeli counterpart, Eyal Hulata, met in the White House as part of the US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group. The two sides exchanged views on the most pressing challenges impacting the security and stability of the Middle East region. They expressed their shared determination to address the threats facing Israel, and other regional partners.
According to the White House, “Sullivan emphasized President Biden’s fundamental commitment to Israel’s security and to ensuring that Iran never gets nuclear weapons.” Sullivan stressed the point that diplomacy is the best path to achieve the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He stated that, “The President has made it clear that if diplomacy fails, the US is prepared to turn to other options.” Sullivan however, didn’t specify what those options were, nor did he mention the possibility of a “military option.”
Biden’s commitment to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon notwithstanding, it is Israel, not the US, that is faced with an existential threat from the Iranian regime. It is apparent that the Biden administration is not recognizing the Iranian threat the same way Israel does. In an interview with Al-Monitor, a senior Israeli defense official close to Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz, described the situation as such: “Yes, the talks were good, the atmosphere was very friendly and open, the messages were conveyed, but in terms of substance the situation is bad. Perhaps very bad. Right now, there is no joint operational contingency plan against Iran should efforts to return to the nuclear agreement fail. And even worse, the Americans do not have any solution whatsoever to such a situation. They do not have Plan B. They do not have alternatives, and what is truly troubling is that they are not really concerned about it. They see events in a completely different way than we do. It’s their right, of course, but it is of great concern to us.”
Regrettably, at a time when this radical Iranian regime is vulnerable domestically, the Biden administration is eagerly pushing for a deal with Iran that would give this hateful regime a great deal of leverage. With demonstrations occurring regularly in spite of intimidation by the regime’s paid goons, ordinary Iranians are going to the streets to protest shortages of water and electricity. Growing voices are speaking out, accusing the Ayatollahs regime of corruption, and blaming it for their suffering. While Raisi was hand-picked by Ali Khamenei, the Supreme leader, the Iranian people voted with their feet, scoring the lowest voter turnout in recent history.
In an ironic, or perhaps comical twist, The New Arab website reported (September 7, 2021) that a conservative Iranian Member of Parliament named Javad Nikbin, has called for the arrest and prosecution of former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, “based on events he saw portrayed on the popular Iranian TV series called ‘Gando,’” which is produced by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The radicals in the Iranian regime have accused Rouhani’s government of financial and security mistakes, political corruption, and cover-ups of wrongdoing. Among the charges leveled at Rouhani, are that his government pushed for the nuclear deal known as the JCPOA…
It is fairly clear that the fanatical regime in Tehran is in no rush to return to the Vienna talks, and it is using the time to expedite the process for obtaining a nuclear bomb. Iran is currently enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, accumulating large stockpiles of fissile material, and testing advanced centrifuges while stonewalling the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and denying its inspectors access to sites where nuclear related activities are taking place. In addition, the Iranians are working on developing medium and long-range missiles that could carry nuclear payloads. True, Iran would join the Vienna talks if the US and its allies would drop the sanctions, but that is merely a subterfuge. The ruling elites are not particularly hurt by the current sanctions, the Iranian people are. The regime has used the sanctions to portray the US as evil and untrustworthy, and continues to organize “death to America and Israel” demonstrations.
The US is cognizant of the fact that Iran’s “breakout time” to the bomb has shortened, and that the mullahs might have accumulated enough fissile material for a single nuclear bomb in just months. The Biden administration is not doing anything about it, other than push for renewed talks with the Iranians. And, while Israel has too much respect for the US administration to argue publicly against the American approach toward Iran, it cannot hide its frustration with Washington. Israel wants to see a “US demonstration of power,” and not passively retreating from the region to the delight of the Iranian mullahs. Israelis know however, that only a threat of military action will make the Iranian’s budge.
While Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will not push against the nuclear deal with Iran as his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu did, he pointed out that sanction relief would give Iran more resources to back Israel’s enemies in the region, including Hezbollah, and the Shiite militias Iran employs in Syria. And clearly, as a reminder, Iran would be able to commit more Cyprus like attacks on Israelis.