By Marco Giannangeli | Express
Israel could be at war with Iran by this summer if Tehran does not abandon its race for nuclear weapons.
This stark prediction by experts comes as Israel and the US signalled [sic]their preparedness last week with their largest joint military exercise in history. More than 7,000 US and Israeli troops took part in Exercise Juniper Oak, a live-firing war game which boasted more than 140 B52 bombers, fighter aircraft and Apache gunships.
It also involved 12 naval vessels including a carrier strike group, high-mobility artillery rocket systems, and multiple-launch rocket systems.
The week-long exercise, which took place two years after former US President Donald Trump took the decision to include Israel in the US Central Command (Centcom) envelope, was intended to give a robust signal to the Islamic regime, sources say.
It follows two joint Air Force exercises which simulated strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities in November last year.
Israel is also said to be seeking to buy new F-15 EX fighter jets from the US, giving it an extended strike range.
It was also designed to assure regional allies such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that the US was capable of engaging militarily in the Middle East while still dealing with the fast-moving situation in Ukraine.
Officials from the Gulf Co-Operation Council groups of states were expected to be briefed this weekend on the exercise.
And that assurance is key, said Middle East expert Catherine Perez-Shakdam, as Israel seeks to build a coalition ahead of anticipated conflict.
“We know time is running out in terms of Iran’s nuclear programme,” said Ms Perez-Shakdam, of the Henry Jackson Society think tank.
“Israel is preparing for war. Senior IDF officials believe it will happen before summer.”
Last week the Sunday Express reported Israeli concerns that Iran was now “just weeks away” from enriching its uranium stockpile to 90 percent, the level where a small enough quantity can feasibly be fitted into a nuclear warhead and attached to a missile.
With the beleaguered Islamic regime still failing to contain the widespread protests which have been ongoing since September, the fear is it will resort to fulfilling its nuclear weapon project as a way to consolidate its position and place itself beyond regime change.
Although it will still take 18 months for Iran to develop a delivery system, it is expected to store its 90 per cent enriched uranium 60m underground in a plant near the holy city of Qom, rendering it less accessible to attack.
At the same time, an increase in Iranian-sponsored activity in Judea and Samaria, which includes the West Bank, is causing concern in Tel Aviv, which fears Iran is trying to spark a civil war.