Report: Israeli military instructed to prepare for possible Trump strike on Iran

Over the past few weeks, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Donald Trump leaves office, senior Israeli officials told Barak Ravid of Axios, according to a report published Wednesday.

According to the report, the Israeli government ordered the IDF to commence the preparations not because of any intelligence or assessment indicating that Trump will order such a strike, but because senior Israeli officials anticipate “a very sensitive period” ahead of Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Additionally, the report detailed that the IDF’s preparedness measures relate to possible Iranian retaliation against Israel directly or through Iranian proxies in Syria, Gaza and Lebanon, the Israeli officials said.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a surprise trip to Israel, where he visited the controversial settlements in the Israeli areas of the West Bank and Golan Heights, in an unprecedented move for a sitting U.S. secretary of state. Golan Heights in particular is disputed between Israel and neighboring Syria and the region is also bordered by Lebanon to the north. During the trip, the topic of Iran was discussed.

The Axios article mentioned that The New York Times reported last week that Trump, in a meeting with senior members of his national security team, brought up the idea of possibly striking Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Natanz.

The Times reported that Trump presented the idea after a briefing on an International Atomic Energy Agency report about Iran’s growing stockpiles of enriched uranium, but that high-ranking officials warned him about the dangers of escalating regional tensions. Those high-ranking officials were reported to include Vice President Mike Pence and Pompeo. The president also reportedly seemed convinced that striking Iran directly would be too big of a risk, but has considered alternate options, per The Times.

State Department officials traveling with Pompeo last week to many Gulf countries to discuss Iran told reporters “all options are on the table.” During that Gulf tour, U.S. Central Command announced that B-52 strategic bombers had conducted a “short-notice, long-range mission into the Middle East to deter aggression and reassure U.S. partners and allies,” which Axios noted was seen as another signal to Iran.

Israeli officials also told Axios that, during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Sunday meeting in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the main topic was Iran, the Saudis’ biggest rival in the region.

Even some Iranian figures are saying that a U.S. attack against it would have explosive consequences. Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran’s leader and a possible candidate in Iran’s upcoming presidential elections, last week told the Associated Press that such a strike against Iran could set off a “full-fledged war” in the wider region.

Moreover, senior Israeli officials told Axios they expect the United States will notify Israel ahead of any U.S. strike against Iran. These officials, however, are reportedly concerned that such a warning from the U.S. won’t be sufficient to fully prepare. The Israeli government thus ordered the IDF to begin taking preparatory steps just in case such a scenario were to occur, Axios reported.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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