According to a report from Haaretz, the US and Israel are increasing military coordination over fears that Iran could retaliate for the killing of prominent scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Sources told Haaretz that officials from Iran’s military and US Central Command reportedly met to discuss the chances of an Iranian attack. The two militaries reviewed procedures for the joint detection of missile and rocket fire on US and Israeli targets in the Middle East.
Fakhrizadeh’s killing came after a report from The New York Times said President Trump reviewed options to strike an Iranian nuclear site at an Oval Office meeting last month. Since then, Iran has urged caution, warning its allies in the region against provoking the US into a military confrontation.
Israel, the likely perpetrator of Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, took the news that Trump considered attacking Iran as a signal to escalate tensions. Besides apparently killing Fakhrizadeh, Israel ramped up airstrikes in Syria against what it calls Iranian-linked targets and continues to leak stories to the press about how they are preparing for war with Iran.
The US started pulling diplomats from its embassy in Baghdad this week due to security concerns. While Iran has warned its allies in Iraq not to attack the US, there are other Iraqi factions that have their own reasons to fire on US forces. Regardless, any US casualty in Iraq between now and Trump’s last day in office will likely be blamed on Iran. The same goes for Israeli casualties.
On Thursday, Israel’s National Security Council warned that Israelis visiting countries that neighbor Iran could be the target of Iranian attacks. “In light of the threats heard recently from Iranian factors, and in light of past involvement of Iranians in terrorist attacks on various countries, there is a concern Iran will try to act in this way against Israeli destinations,” the council said in a statement.
Others are not convinced that Iran will retaliate anytime soon, including Elliot Abrams, President Trump’s hawkish point man on Iran. Abrams said that Iran is desperate for sanctions relief and would not do anything to jeopardize future negotiations with the incoming Biden administration.
Abrams and other Iran hawks in the Trump administration are looking to sabotage Joe Biden’s plans for rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. The administration plans to slap new sanctions on Iran every week until Biden is inaugurated. But despite the sanctions and escalations by Israel, both Biden and Iran’s leadership seem keen to return to the JCPOA.