Since Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in an apparent Israeli plot, the US and Israel have been warning about threats in the region. Despite Iran’s clear desire to make it to January 20th without a military confrontation with the US, anonymous officials are hyping the threat of Iranian retaliation for Fakhrizadeh’s death.
On Monday, an anonymous US official told The Associated Press that Washington fears Iran may take advantage of US troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan. For this reason, the official said the US might have to hold off on the planned departure of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz from the Persian Gulf.
In September, the Nimitz was deployed to the Persian Gulf to send a message to Iran. The US official said the ship must remain in the region “for some time to come.” The official added that an additional fighter squadron might be sent to the Middle East. The US recently deployed B-52 bombers to the region and moved a fleet of F-16 fighter jets from Germany to the UAE.
Widening the areas where any violence in the next six weeks can be blamed on Iran, anonymous European and Israeli officials told Business Insider that officials in Europe and the Gulf are preparing for imminent attacks by Iran on Israeli or Jewish sites around the world. “I would expect the window for a response to be in the coming weeks,” an unnamed European diplomat told Insider.
“If they hit an Israeli target or official somewhere while the US is distracted by the transition and the holidays, I would not be shocked. But I think the chances reduce each day as a Biden presidency draws closer,” the diplomat said.
A former Israeli official told Insider that “Israel’s intelligence services have determined the chances of a response to be high.” The unnamed official said warnings are being made to “diplomatic, cultural, and tourism facilities in countries around Africa and Asia popular with Israeli tourists.”
The former Israeli official also mentioned the threat to Israelis in Bahrain and the UAE, the Gulf states that recently normalized relations with Israel. Israel’s National Security Council recently put out a warning to its citizens traveling in these countries.
Despite the scaremongering, Iran seems keen to engage in diplomacy with the incoming Biden administration in hopes for sanctions relief. A military confrontation with the US or Israel would scuttle any hopes for talks.
The assassination of Fakhrizadeh came after a report said President Trump reviewed options to strike an Iranian nuclear site. Since the report came out, Iran has urged its allies in the region not to provoke the US.
On Sunday, the top US Navy commander in the Middle East said Iran’s navy has been “cautious” and “respectful,” describing the situation as an “uneasy deterrence.” Iran reacted warmly to the commander’s comments and said the US finally “got the message” and modified its behavior in the Persian Gulf.
“We are happy that the other party has got the message and made its behavior more respectful,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday. Khatibzadeh said the US is the “main source of tension” in the region.