Israel gears up for possible unilateral strike on Iran

Jerusalem, March 20: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon have ordered the military to continue preparations for a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities during 2014, a media report here said.

The Israel Defense Forces allocated up to NIS 12 billion ($3.5 billion), nearly a fifth of its budget this year, for preparations for a possible unilateral strike on Iran, approximately the same amount invested last year, reported Xinhua citing Israeli daily Ha’aretz Wednesday.

The figure was presented by top officers who briefed the joint committee in January and February on the military’s plans, said the lawmakers who spoke to Ha’aretz requesting anonymity.

They said that some of their colleagues who were present at the meetings asked the officers whether it was justified to continue pouring billions into the preparations to strike Iran, citing the interim nuclear agreement inked between Tehran and the six powers last November, and the ongoing negotiations aimed at reaching a final accord.

The officers replied that the military had received a “clear directive” from the political echelon, meaning Netanyahu and Ya’ alon, to continue training for a possible independent strike, the report said.

It was regardless of the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian issue peacefully, it added.

The second round of nuclear talks was launched in Vienna Tuesday, with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif in attendance.

The newspaper noted that both Netanyahu and Ya’alon have strongly indicated in recent months that Israel, which views a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat, has not abandoned the military option.

IANS