While Iran slams Israel for “trumpeting lies to poison” the talks, Israel goes on a military buying spree and revs up IDF training drills.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Israel has begun a massive buying spree of military goods and radically increased training drills in the likelihood that the nuclear talks in Vienna will fail and it will have to go it alone against an Iran that keeps accelerating its race to a bomb.
Backed up by a proper budget for the first time in years, the Defense Ministry requested, and on Tuesday received the go-ahead, to buy a squadron’s worth of the USA’s Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopters. These heavy lift aircraft are significantly faster, have a longer range, and can carry three times the amount of cargo and troops than Israel’s 50-year-old Yasurs, which are the current backbone of its helicopter transport fleet.
That deal alone is worth $2.4 billion.
Ynet reported Thursday on a “top secret” memorandum that the ministerial committee on defensive procurement also approved, to start negotiating with Washington for the purchase of a large number of smart bombs and other classified weapons for the air force, as well as supplies for the Iron Dome system, in a deal worth over $1.6 billion. This is in addition to the $1 billion in American funding for replenishing the missile interceptors for the protective batteries that the House of Representatives has approved and is now awaiting the Senate’s confirmation.
The IDF has also drastically increased its training program for both regular and reserve soldiers, in both the offensive and defensive spheres. The air force is constantly practicing, and it has intensified its intelligence collection efforts, said the report. The military has also held several international cooperation drills on land, sea and air with regional allies as well as the United States.
In addition, the top brass knows, for example, that an airstrike on Iranian nuclear facilities may force Hezbollah, Iran’s terror proxy in Lebanon, to launch thousands of rockets into Israel in retaliation, and perhaps even try to cross the border to attack.
Over the last several months alone, the IDF has held two General Staff exercises, a “national home front” drill, a cyber exercise, four divisional exercises, and nine brigade exercises to hone the troops’ abilities in defending the borders. The army is also planning more drills for the coming year. All of this training, of course, costs a lot of money as well.
For its part, on Wednesday, the Islamic Republic accused Israel of trying to ensure that the negotiations that were just renewed this week fall through.
“Israeli regime whose existence relies on tension is at it again, trumpeting lies to poison Vienna talks,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted, without pointing to any particular alleged untruth. “All parties in the room now face a test of their independence & political will to carry out the job – irrespective of the fake news designed to destroy prospects for success.”
What Israel has pointed out, repeatedly, are all the ways in which Iran is breaking the restrictions built into the 2015 nuclear agreement, both secretly and in the open. According to a Monday report in Axios, Israel has recently given intelligence information to both the Americans and European co-signers on the deal that Iran has begun working on the technical end to enable uranium enrichment to 90% purity, the level needed for a nuclear bomb. In yet another violation, this time announced by on Wednesday by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran has begun enriching uranium to 20% purity at its Fordo nuclear plant with advanced cascades. Under the terms of the deal, Iran is not allowed to enrich uranium there at all.