Israel launched major military drills preparing for war with Hezbollah, Syria and Iran on Monday. The exercises, Israel’s largest since “Chariots of Fire” in May 2022, aim to simulate a conflict which begins with fighting in the north and then spreads to other fronts, namely Iran.
“The Joint Chiefs of Staff exercise ‘Firm Hand’ began today and will last for about two weeks. The exercise will simulate multi-arena combat in air, sea, land, electromagnetic spectrum, and in the cyber arena,” the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement.
Reportedly planned for some time, the drills are being led by Northern Command’s 91st “Galilee” Division, which is responsible for fighting Hezbollah, and the 36th Ga’ash (Golan) Armored Division, which oversees operations at the border with Syria and the occupied Golan Heights. According to Jewish News Syndicate, in “the most extreme scenarios, the exercise’s simulation expands to include direct hostilities with Iran.”
The IDF statement continues, “The Israeli Army’s ability to be prepared for a prolonged campaign in several arenas will be tested as part of the exercise.“ A military source told the outlet there will be hundreds of aircraft in the air of all types, such as fighter jets, including F-35s, unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters. The report said the scenario being tested will be markedly different from “Operation Shield and Arrow,” Tel Aviv’s bombing campaign in Gaza last month.
On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hosted Gen. Michael Kurilla, the commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM), for a three day visit. Gallant, along with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, “updated Kurilla on the achievements” of “Operation Shield and Arrow,” where Israeli forces killed 33 people in the besieged open-air prison.
In Tel Aviv, Kurilla joined in a situational assessment at the IDF General Staff Operations Center amidst “Firm Hand,” and participated in an operational panel discussion with Halevi discussing “ways to boost joint capabilities and coordination.” Gen, Kurilla also visited the Israeli military’s notorious Unit 504, which “anticipated the CIA’s rendition and torture program,” according to the Electronic Intifada.
Gallant’s office issued a statement thanking Kurilla “for his great contribution to the ongoing cooperation.”
This comes as tensions between the US, Israel, and Iran have been heading toward a boiling point. The Joe Biden administration has refused to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), imposed even more sanctions on the Islamic Republic, and tacitly endorsed several Israeli drone strikes and assassinations in Iran. The US also expressed a desire to jointly plan attacks on Iran with Tel Aviv last month.
Earlier on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement “I have a sharp and clear message for both Iran and the international community: Israel will do whatever it needs to do to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.“ Netanyahu’s war threats came just one day after the Associated Press reported on some positive developments between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog. Tehran resolved some concerns about its civilian energy program.
If Israel was truly concerned about Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons, they would support the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal, which mandates the most comprehensive IAEA inspections regime ever implemented. As the Libertarian Institute’s Ted Snider has noted, “prior to the US illegally pulling out of the JCPOA, Iran was in full compliance with its JCPOA commitments. Eleven consecutive [IAEA] reports verified that Iran was completely and consistently in compliance with their commitments under the agreement.”
In any case, Iran has been a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since 1970. Israel has never signed the NPT due to its open-secret nuclear arsenal thought to contain hundreds of weapons – technically making decades of American aid to Tel Aviv illegal under US foreign assistance laws.