The Biden administration’s failure to present a credible military response to Iran’s expanding nuclear program has brought Israel closer than ever to launching a military strike on Tehran, according to a retired Israeli general.
Retired brigadier general Amir Avivi, who spent 30 years in the Israel Defense Forces and now serves as chairman of the Israel Defense and Security Forum think tank, predicted that Israel could launch a strike in as little as three months if the Biden administration does not unite its Middle Eastern allies around a plan to combat Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon.
An Israeli military strike, Avivi said in a wide-ranging interview, "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."
Israel’s deadline for a strike is shrinking due to Iran’s relationship with Russia and support for its war in Ukraine. Moscow could provide Iran with advanced air defense systems that would make it harder for Israel to attack its nuclear sites. And without an anti-Iran coalition in the Middle East, Israel’s options are limited, Avivi said.
Israel and its Arab neighbors that fear a nuclear Iran "need the West to wake up and react to this development," Avivi said. "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.
The Biden administration’s failure to address these fears pushed Saudi Arabia—a nation that was warming up to Israel during the Trump administration—to ink a peace agreement with Iran that was brokered by China. The Saudi-Iran relationship has long been on the rocks due to Tehran’s regional terrorism operations, but China stepped in this month to broker a deal that restores diplomatic ties between the countries. China’s leading role in the agreement signals the Communist regime is replacing the United States as the region’s power broker and could spell trouble for Israel as it tries to unite its Arab neighbors in opposition to Tehran.
"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."
The United States appears hesitant to assume this role, and it has kept the door open to diplomacy with Iran surrounding the 2015 nuclear accord. The Biden administration has also been a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and recent moves to cut oil production, with the president vowing "consequences" last year for these actions. Chilly relations with the United States have pushed the Saudis to embrace diplomacy with both China and Russia.
For Israel, these developments could accelerate plans to preemptively strike Tehran’s nuclear sites, according to Avivi, who said Israel’s military recently received one of its largest budgets in history. The IDF budget is typically a hotly debated issue in the country, but the latest one allocated the military 100 percent of what it requested.
Israel also has stayed quiet about a recent report alleging Iran is enriching uranium to 84 percent purity—the highest levels ever and just shy of weapons grade nuclear fuel.
Asked about Israel’s silence, Avivi said, "a barking dog does not bite. When you don’t hear anything from Israel, this means we are done talking."
Russia’s decision to arm Iran also has accelerated Israel’s timeline for a possible strike.
"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."
The Biden administration could stave off this action by uniting the West in opposition to Iran, according to Avivi.
"Let's say tomorrow morning the U.S. says to Israel, 'Listen, that's it. We are leading a coalition. We are going to, in our words, kick the Iranians' ass, Israel will say, ‘You know what, what do you need? You want us to help Ukraine? We’ll give them whatever you want,’" Avivi said. "It will be a game changer even in Ukraine once the Israelis really start to help. But this is if the U.S. leads a credible threat of attack on Iranian installations."