Israel, US on Tehran shift as Iran navy heads to Med
JERUSALEM / TEHRANU.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon was expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday amid rising concerns over Iran after Iranian warships entered the Suez Canal and headed to Mediterranean for the second time since the 1979.
The White House has said that Donilon would talk to senior Israeli officials on a range of issues, including Syria. The visit comes at a time of heightened tension between Israel and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program, and in the wake of attacks on Israeli diplomats blamed on agents of Tehran.
Tensions between Iran and Israel also have been simmering with Iranian warships entering the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal in a show of “might”, a move Israel said it would closely monitor. “The strategic navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran has passed through the Suez Canal for the second time since the  Islamic Revolution,” Admiral Habibollah Sayari said in remarks quoted by the official IRNA news agency.
Sayari said the naval deployment to the Mediterranean would carry a “message of peace” but also put on display “the might” of Iran’s military.
Warning from top US general
Israeli media yesterday quoted a CNN interview with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, in which he warns that an Israeli military strike on Iran would be “destabilizing and premature,” Agence France-Presse reported. “It’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran,” the Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying. “A strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve (Israel’s) long-term objectives.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s armed forces chief said Feb. 18 it would be for Israel to decide if it attacks Iran. “Israel is the central guarantor of its own security,” Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said.
Iran starts military drill
A senior U.S. official, speaking to Israeli daily Haaretz on condition of anonymity, also said that in the past six months the messages reaching Washington from Jerusalem have increasingly pointed to the likelihood of an Israeli strike, more so than in the previous two years.
On the Iranian side, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Ground Forces (IRGC) started military drill yesterday in central part of the country. The IRGC Ground Forces Commander Mohammad Pakpour said the exercise dubbed “Valfajr” seeks boosting readiness of the units and showing capabilities of the forces against the probable threats by cross-regional countries.