Israel to Sell ‘War on Iran’ Plans at OAS, Begins Its Largest Military Drill Ever
Israel, which is gradually losing the support it enjoyed in the EU and the U.S., is planning to have a presence in Latin America to counter Iran’s growing ties in the region.
Amid a deepening rift with the U.S. and calls for the European Union to back Washington’s stance on the Middle East peace process, Israel is sending Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon to attend the annual summit of the Organization of American States (OAS) next week, an official said on Saturday on condition of anonymity.
The initiative comes in the midst of Iran enjoying strong relations with Latin American counties like Venezuela and Bolivia — which Israel has recently accused of supplying Tehran with uranium.
Tel Aviv — which according to former U.S. president Jimmy Carter possesses the sole atomic arsenal in the Middle East — alleges that Tehran is using its nuclear energy program for military ends, while Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), says its nuclear aspiration is only aimed at generating electricity to meet the country’s growing demand.
“Israel sees in the summit a chance to deepen economic and diplomatic ties with Latin America and to match Iran’s and Hezbollah’s involvement in the region,” AFP quoted the Israeli official as saying.
The decision to send a high-ranking Israeli representative to the OAS summit for the first time in years hints at Tel Aviv’s desperation to pile up support for its war plans to counter what it calls the ‘Iranian threat’.
It is said that a plot to accuse Venezuela and Bolivia of selling uranium to Iran was meant to serve as a pretext for Tel Aviv to engage the two states and resume relations with Caracas and La Paz – which both expelled Israeli ambassadors over Tel Aviv’s war on the Gaza Strip that ended in January 2009.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also has plans to travel to Latin America and Africa in the coming months as part of the “diplomatic offensive to halt Iran’s growing influence,” the official added.
The hawkish government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, since coming to power, has threatened to launch a military offensive against Iran, targeting its nuclear facilities — an attitude which has cost Tel Aviv Washington’s carte blanche support.
US President Barack Obama, on the other hand, has vowed to diplomatically engage Iran and has called on Israel to halt settlement activities and accept the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state — which Tel Aviv deems as a low priority.
Israel’s open defiance of the United States has resulted in more countries — including Portugal — calling on the EU to adopt Washington’s position on Tel Aviv.
After the OAS summit, the deputy foreign minister will visit Washington for a meeting with senior State Department and White House officials in another attempt to gain U.S. backing for a military attack on Iran, the Israeli official concluded, AFP reported.
Israel has launched its largest-ever military exercise to test its capabilities against potential missile attacks, bombings and riots.
Over the past few months, Israel has been busy making plans for fresh confrontation in the Middle East. The drill is widely believed to be in line with the regime’s preparation for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities which they admit can ignite an all-out war in the region.
The five-day exercise which was launched on Sunday will simulate simultaneous rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and missile attacks from Iran and Syria.
“We will be exercising the doomsday scenario of simultaneous strikes against Israel on all fronts and by different means,” Israel’s defense ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror told AFP last week.
Exercise Turning Point 3 will also include simulating chemical and biological strikes on populated centers and a wave of attacks by Palestinians.
Israeli cabinet will also hold simulated meetings to weigh its response to such scenarios.
This is the third consecutive year Israel is conducting such an exercise.Tel Aviv says the war games are defensive in nature.
Lebanese Army however has heightened its security measures along the southern border with Israel to repel possible threats during the Israeli drill.
Israel’s speedy military build up can also be part of efforts to avenge its decisive defeat in the 2006 war on Lebanon.
Israel fought a 33-day war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 to destroy the military power of the Lebanese resistance. According to the Winograd report, the attack backfired to wreak a humiliating defeat on Israel.
In the face of the overwhelming Israeli threats, the Hezbollah resistance movement has reportedly doubled its military might by preparing a joint training program with Lebanese Army forces.
In addition to the military patrols, Hezbollah forces, according to Al Manar, will be on guard “to respond to any possible aggression”.
Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem correspondent, said that while Israel claimed that the drill had “no special significance”, it would likely be seen in the context of “Israel’s sabre-rattling towards Iran and also towards other neighbouring Arab countries”.
“It was only a couple of weeks ago that Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu was in Washington and he was really pushing the question of Iran and its perceived nuclear threat really to the top of the agenda of his talks with President [Barack] Obama,” she said.
“So, although Israel is saying that this is a defensive drill and it is really practising its ability to defend its civilians against attack from outside, inevitably it has to be interpreted by Israel’s Arab neighbours – and indeed the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank – as a warning, a not so subtle warning, of Israel’s offensive capacities to strike should these circumstances arise.”
Al Jazeera’s James Bays on the Lebanese border with Israel said: “Israel said that this is something that was planned a long time ago. But this side of the border people are very suspicious.
“And that is because of the timing. In just seven days time the Lebanese go to the polls. Opinion polls show that the race is very tight.
“But at the moment, slightly in the lead are the Hezbollah led opposition. Israel has already said that if the opposition becomes the new government they will consider that government the enemy.”
The drill comes just two weeks after the air force wrapped up a four-day exercise testing its ability to defend against strikes from Syria and Iran.
Israel believes Iran is developing nuclear weapons and has not ruled out a military strike on the country in response.
Iran says its nuclear programme is only for energy production.
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