US Tankers Will Refuel Israeli Jets Simulating Strikes on Iran: Report

© Photo : Public DomainUS Air Force Boeing KC-135 "Stratotanker" During exercise. File photo.
US Air Force Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker During exercise. File photo. - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.05.2022
Officials in Tel Aviv have stated repeatedly that the Jewish State will not be bound by any agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme reached by the United States or its European allies. Iran has warned that the “slightest move” against the Islamic Republic would be met with a “devastating” response against the “heart of the Zionist regime”.
The Pentagon will take part in Israel’s upcoming "Chariots of Fire" military exercise, deploying US Air Force tankers to refuel Israeli jets simulating an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Israeli media have reported, citing official briefings.
The bombing practice is expected to include simulations in which Israeli jets enter Iranian airspace, dodge sophisticated air defences, and launch missile strikes on nuclear facilities, some of them highly fortified. Israel’s Channel 13 news touted the drills as a “message to Iran” that Washington may support an attack against Tehran by the Israelis, even if it does not take part directly.
United States Central Command head Michael Kurilla travelled to Israel on an official visit on Tuesday, where he is expected to be given an IDF assessment of the situation in the region and vis-à-vis Iran. Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz is headed to Washington, and is expected to meet with his Pentagon counterpart Lloyd Austin as well as US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Gantz repeated Israel’s oft-stated line about Iran being just “weeks” away from gathering enough fissile material to build a nuclear bomb. Israeli officials have been making such claims for well-over a decade, adjusting the time frame each time the “weeks away” deadline comes and passes without anything happening.
 In this March 31, 2020, file photo, Iran's national flag waves as Milad telecommunications tower and buildings are seen in Tehran, Iran - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.04.2022
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The Chariots of Fire drills, characterised by the IDF as being "unique and unprecedented in scope", also plan to simulate the Islamic Republic’s inevitable response to such a provocation, and the Israeli reaction.
The Israeli government carved out a special $1.5 billion budget separate from cash slated for defence spending last year for preparations to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Last week, Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata assured that Israel was not interested in a military confrontation with Iran over its nuclear programme, adding that Tel Aviv was not looking to involve Washington in any possible dispute. “We think the issue can be resolved in other ways”, he said. Hulata’s comments follow remarks by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett earlier this year that “the emerging deal…is highly likely to create a more violent, more volatile Middle East”.
In April, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned Tel Aviv that “if you make the slightest move against our nation…our armed forces’ destination will be the heart of the Zionist regime”.
A view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km (155 miles) south of the Iranian capital Tehran, in this Maxar Technologies satellite image taken last week and obtained by Reuters on April 12, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.04.2022
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In March, outgoing Central Command chief Kenneth McKenzie told US Senate lawmakers that he was “very concerned” by the “remarkable growth and efficiency” of Iran’s “ballistic missile force, their UAV programme, their long range drones, and their land attack cruise missile programme”. McKenzie estimated that the Islamic Republic has “over 3,000 missiles”, including some which can reach Tel Aviv.
Iran has repeatedly rejected accusations made by Israel and its allies that it has any plans to build nuclear weapons, and stressed that its ample stockpiles of ballistic and cruise missiles were enough to deter any aggression. At the same time, Tehran has criticised the international community, including United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, for its close scrutiny of Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy programme while ignoring Israel’s widely suspected status as the Middle East’s only nuclear weapons state.
In this Sept. 18, 2016, file photo provided by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting in Tehran, Iran. Iran executed Mahmoud Mousavi Majd convicted of providing information to the United States and Israel about the prominent Revolutionary Guard general later killed by a U.S. drone strike, state TV reported on Monday, July 20, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.04.2022
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The Biden administration resumed talks with Iran in April 2021 in a bid to revive the Iranian nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Negotiators from Iran, the US, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany, and the European Union have met repeatedly in Vienna over the past year to try to hammer out a new deal, but the agreement has been left in limbo amid disagreements about which side should make concessions first.
On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Tehran was ready to move forward if the White House abandons its “worn-out phrases” and dismantles the “maximum pressure” policy of its predecessor. Khatibzadeh also slammed Israel over what he said were attempts by Tel Aviv to torpedo diplomacy.
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