The window to prevent an Israeli strike against Iran’s growing nuclear program is closing quickly, a retired Israeli military general says.
Retired Brigadier General Amir Avivi says that the United States’ retreat from the Middle East, which has allowed China and Russia to move in, is quickly limiting Israel’s options for avoiding conflict. Israel’s timeframe for launching a strike against Iran has shortened to potentially as little as a few months.
An Israeli strike against Iran “is bad for everybody, but this is at the moment what’s going to happen, and maybe happen in three months, in six months, maybe a year,” Avivi told The Washington Free Beacon. Avivi spent three decades in the Israel Defense Forces before becoming the chairman of an Israeli national security think tank, the Israel Defense and Security Forum.
Iran and Russia have deepened ties since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war last year. Iran has reportedly provided Russia with ammo and drones to fuel its war machine while pressuring Moscow to supply Tehran with S-400 missile systems. The anti-air missile system would bolster Iran’s defensive capabilities and make delivering a strike against sensitive or high-priority targets more difficult for Israel.
“At the moment, the U.S. is sitting on the fence, not deciding to lead and build a coalition that will stabilize [the region] and challenge” the Iran-Russia alliance, Avivi said.
“We managed for many years to prevent the Russians from giving the Iranians many capabilities, mainly air defense,” Avivi said. “But now the Russians are so dependent on Iran that they’re willing to assist Iran further. Israel needs to take into account that it’s not only about this red line, but our ability to act.”
Former President Donald Trump had begun to build such a coalition around the Abraham Accords and checking Iran. Progress faltered after President Joe Biden entered office on more confrontational footing with Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the region, over its human rights record.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia and Iran struck a peace agreement and agreed to resume diplomatic relations. The agreement was mediated by China, which has extended its influence in the Middle East along with Russia as the U.S. has drawn back.
“We were very concerned that the consequences of the U.S. not being proactive in the Middle East would push the Saudis into the China-Russian axis,” Avivi said. “However, this is not irreversible. The U.S. must make it clear that they will be very active in the Middle East—enough to gain the confidence of allies that they will not abandon them.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced concerns over the progress that Iran has made toward becoming a nuclear power at a national security conference in February. Iran has enriched uranium up to 84%. Weapons-grade uranium is 90%.
“The only thing that has credibly stopped rogue nations from developing nuclear weapons is a credible military threat or a credible military action,” Netanyahu said.
“You can couple that with crippling economic sanctions, but that’s not a sufficient condition. A necessary condition, and an often sufficient condition, is credible military action,” he continued. “The longer you wait, the harder that becomes. We’ve waited very long.”