For the second time in four days, Iran has threatened to annihilate Israel. Sunday, Nov. 6, Tehran said four missiles would be enough to kill a million Israelis. Wednesday, Nov. 9, Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, deputy commander of Iran's armed forces, said an American or Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would not only result in the Jewish state's extinction - "Dimona is the most accessible target" - but generate a response that "would not be limited to the Middle East."
DEBKAfile's military sources interpret this to mean a missile attack on American bases in Europe and US Sixth Fleet vessels in the Mediterranean.
"The smallest action by Israel [against Iran] and we will see its destruction," Gen. Jazayeri went on to say. "We have plans of reprisal ready for any attack."
DEBKAfile's Iranian sources report all this muscle-flexing is a sign of mounting edginess in Tehran as the debate in the United States and Israel over the need for a military operation against Iran gains momentum following the UN nuclear agency (IAEA)'s exposure of its nuclear program as weapon-focused.
Some American papers have responded with stories designed to discourage the Netanyahu government from a military offensive. They claim Israel is short of the bombers and air crews needed to conduct the 1,000 rapid-fire sorties required for a successful operation. The damage would therefore be slight, they argue, enough only to hold Iran's nuclear progress back by no more than a year or two at best. Israel would have to repeat its operation every few years.
Other US sources maintain that a unilateral Israel strike on Iran would seriously undercut America's Middle East influence and call for unwilling US intervention in the war to rescue Israel from the fury of Iranian missiles.
According to another view expounded by certain US columnists Wednesday, no American or Israel attack is to be expected in the coming days, but must eventually take place. President Barack Obama swore Iran would not be allowed to attain a nuclear weapon. He is bound to make good on his pledge just as he kept his promise to liquidate Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and pull US troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has told his office to offer no comment on the nuclear agency's evidence of Iran's work on an atomic bomb until he is ready and ordered cabinet ministers to keep silent.
There is a certain amount of frustration in Jerusalem over the nuclear agency's report, mainly because it conceals as much as it reveals. Its researches cover Iran's nuclear and missile developments only in the years 2008 and 2009 whereas both programs took off dramatically and ominously later.
DEBKAfile's Jerusalem sources have registered two other dominant responses:
1. If as government sources claim Iran can attain an operational nuclear weapon within a year, why is the Netanyahu government talking about sanctions which everyone knows are useless instead of exercising its military option before it is too late?
2. Israeli intelligence and military sources and commentators say the agency's findings are not new but have been known for some years.
If that is the case, many Israelis ask, why was Iran's nuclear progress kept dark and why didn't a military attack come up for debate much sooner when it would have been more expeditious?
And if the truth was kept hidden for two or three years, why should anyone believe that the data released this week covers the true picture? The conclusion is inescapable that Iran's nuclear doings are a lot more dangerous than the agency and the Israeli government would have people believe.
A minority of former government officials in opposition today maintain in response to the IAEA report that Israel should learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran and in fact has already managed to survive for some years and even prosper in its shadow without coming to harm.
However, most Israelis now suspect that Iran already has the N-bomb but no one responsible is willing to admit it.