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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia Warns US-Israeli Exercises Against Iran Would Destabilize Situation in 'Explosive Region'

Sputnik News

Ilya Tsukanov

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that US and Israeli officials planned to discuss possible joint military exercises in preparation for a 'worst-case scenario' to destroy Iran's peaceful nuclear facilities if diplomatic efforts to salvage the Iran nuclear deal fell through.

Joint US-Israeli exercises practicing the mock destruction of Iranian nuclear infrastructure threaten to destabilize the Middle East and should not take place, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has warned.

"Any activities of a training nature in such an explosive region carries the risk of developing into further complications. This is not needed. Right now it is important to show restraint and focus on facilitating the negotiations process, which, after a long pause, has resumed in Vienna," Ryabkov said, speaking to journalists on Thursday.

The Russian diplomat said he did not find the Reuters report about the possible exercises surprising. "We, of course, proceed from the assumption that the United States and Israel, being extremely close allies and to a large extent sharing assessments on Iranian policy and Iran's role in the region, might hold such events," he said.

Ryabkov's comments follow a report by Reuters Wednesday citing senior US officials who indicated that Israel and the United States would discuss joint drills simulating an attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure if the Vienna nuclear negotiations break down. The issue is expected to be brought up Thursday, with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz traveling to Washington to hold talks with senior US officials including Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Ahead of his US trip, Gantz repeated standard boilerplate Israeli comments about Iran posing "a threat to world peace," and suggested that that the Islamic Republic "seeks to become an existential threat to Israel."

"At the meetings [in Washington], we will discuss possible courses of action to ensure that [Iran] stops its attempt to reach the nuclear arena and expand its activities in the region," Gantz said.

The Pentagon has confirmed that Gantz and US officials would discuss 'shared concerns' about Iran, but did not elaborate.

"I know there's interest in a certain Reuters report," Pentagon spokesman John told journalists at a news briefing Thursday. "I will tell you this: we routinely conduct exercises and training with our Israeli counterparts and I have nothing to announce to or speak to or point to or speculate about today."

Last week, Israeli media reported that Gantz would lobby US officials about "Plan B" envisioning an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities if the Vienna talks bear no fruit.

In a related development, Israeli media reported in October that Tel Aviv had approved a budget of 5 billion shekels (about $1.5 billion) to prepare for possible strikes on Iran.

The United States granted Israel $3.8 billion in military aid in 2021.

The report on the possible joint drills come after Iranian, US, Russian, Chinese, and European officials kicked off the seventh round of talks in Vienna last week on reactivating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - the Iranian nuclear deal that was knocked off track after the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the landmark agreement in 2018. The latest round of talks comes amid continued disagreement between Tehran and Washington on which side must take the first steps to rejoin the nuclear accord. Iran says it's up to the US to first lift its crushing and illegal sanctions. The Biden administration insists that the Islamic Republic first reduce its uranium stockpiling and enrichment activities back into line with the terms of the JCPOA.

Iran denies having any intention to pursue nuclear weapons, and says its nuclear programme is strictly peaceful, in line with United Nations guidelines, and under the watchful eye of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspections regime. Amid regular Israeli threats to attack its nuclear facilities, Iran has repeatedly asked why Tel Aviv seems to a pass from the IAEA and the international community in general despite its suspected arsenal of nukes and status as the Middle East's only nuclear weapons state. Israel neither confirms nor denies possessing nuclear weapons in a policy known as 'deliberate ambiguity'.

© Sputnik

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