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US expects Iran to carry out direct attack on Israel, sources say; Biden warns: “Don’t do this”

The United States expects Iran to carry out strikes against several targets inside Israel in the coming days and is prepared to help intercept any weapons launched against its ally, sources told CNN, while the Biden administration is on high alert for what could be the eruption of a significantly volatile and unpredictable period in the Middle East.

President Joe Biden predicted on Friday that Iran's attacks would come “sooner or later” and sought once again to issue a stern public warning, saying his message to Tehran was simply: “Don't do this.” ”.

The start of a state-to-state conflict between Iran and Israel would mark a serious escalation in the region – a scenario the US had hoped to avoid since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in October.

On Friday, the US believed that Iranian proxies could also be involved in the upcoming attacks, according to a senior administration official and a source familiar with the intelligence, and that the targets were likely to be inside Israel and around Israel. region.

The US readiness to intercept weapons launched against Israel marked a clear indication of the level of ongoing cooperation between the two armies.

The US observed Iran moving military assets internally, including drones and cruise missiles, signaling that it was preparing to attack Israeli targets from its own territory, according to two people familiar with US intelligence.

One of the people said the US observed Iran preparing about 100 cruise missiles.

It was not clear whether Iran was preparing to attack from its soil as part of an initial attack, or whether it was trying to dissuade Israel or the United States from conducting a possible counterattack on its territory.

At the White House on Friday, Biden — responding to shouted questions from reporters, including whether U.S. troops were at risk — emphasized his administration's commitment to Israel's security.

“We are dedicated to the defense of Israel,” he said. “We will support Israel, we will help defend Israel and Iran will not succeed.”

There remains a “real,” “credible” and “viable” threat of Iran launching attacks, the White House said Friday, following Israel's attack on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria last week that killed three generals Iranians.

Biden, who warned this week that Iran was threatening a “significant attack” on Israel, has received constant updates on the status of his national security team.

The US and several other countries, including the UK and France, have issued new travel guidelines for government officials in Israel as the Iranian threat grows.

“We are watching this very, very closely,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, who declined to provide information on the expected timing of the threat.

US Navy forces in the Red Sea have already intercepted long-range missiles launched by the Houthis in Yemen toward Israel. US forces in Iraq and Syria could also potentially intercept drones and rockets aimed at northern Israel, depending on where they are launched from.

The Defense Department is also shifting additional resources to the Middle East region “to bolster regional deterrence efforts and enhance the protection of U.S. forces,” an American defense official told CNN as Israel and the US prepare for a potential Iranian attack.

The Pentagon has been working specifically to bolster the air defenses of US troops stationed in Iraq and Syria, which were attacked by Iranian-backed militant forces more than 100 times between October and February. In January, three US service members were killed when a drone passed through US air defenses at the Tower 22 base in Jordan.

The US is not anticipating Iran or its proxies attacking US forces as part of its retaliation, but is transferring assets just in case.

“We would be reckless if we did not look at our own posture in the region to ensure we are adequately prepared,” Kirby said.

A CNN reported last week that the US was on high alert and actively preparing for an attack by Iran against Israeli or American assets in the region. Officials said such an attack could occur within a week.

Sources say Iran wary of dramatic escalation

A CNN reported earlier this week that an Iranian attack on Israel would likely be carried out by Iranian-backed militant forces in the region rather than directly by Iran, according to two people familiar with U.S. intelligence on the matter.

Tehran is wary of a dramatic escalation in fighting, the sources said, and does not want to give the United States or its allies an excuse to attack Iran directly.

The sources said Iran and its proxy militia groups do not appear prepared to attack U.S. troops or other assets in the region, but noted that Iran does not have perfect command and control over all of its militant forces, so the The possibility of an attack on US assets cannot be completely excluded.

Sources told CNN that US intelligence assesses that Iran has urged several of its proxy militia groups to simultaneously launch a large-scale attack against Israel, using drones and missiles, and that they could strike as early as this week.

“The threat is very clear and credible,” said one of the sources. “They’ve put the pieces in place to run the offense now. Just waiting for the right time.”

Biden spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, about the threat of an Iranian attack during a phone call last week.

A direct attack on Israel by Iran is one of the worst-case scenarios the Biden administration is preparing for, as it would ensure a rapid escalation of an already tumultuous situation in the Middle East.

Such an attack could escalate the Israel-Hamas war into a broader regional conflict — something Biden has long sought to avoid.

Biden is receiving updates several times a day about the situation, Kirby said. As of Friday, US officials were in “constant communication” with their Israeli counterparts on the matter and that measures were underway to ensure Israel was able to defend itself.

“We are certainly aware of a very public threat and what we consider to be a very credible threat made by Iran in terms of potential attacks on Israel,” Kirby said Friday.

He pointed to a visit to Israel on Friday by the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Erik Kurilla, to have “these conversations directly with his counterparts in the Israel Defense Forces.”

Kurilla's trip to Israel was postponed because of expectations of an Iranian response to Israel's attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, last week.

There were also a series of conversations in which US officials urged Israel not to escalate the situation in retaliation against Iran, one of the US officials said.

Separately, American officials were frustrated with their Israeli counterparts over a lack of information shared by Israel before carrying out the attack in Damascus last week, sources told CNN . Israel only informed a US official when its planes were already in the air en route to Syria, another US official said.

“We did not know in advance that Israel was going to carry out this airstrike,” the official said. “Minutes before it happened and when the Israeli planes were already in the air, Israel contacted a US official to say that they were in the process of conducting an attack in Syria. It did not include any details about who they were targeting or where it would be conducted, and the attack was already underway before the news could be relayed to the U.S. government.”

Diplomatic pressure

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the foreign ministers of Turkey, China and Saudi Arabia to urge them to pressure Iran not to escalate the Middle East conflict following threats made by Iran against Israel, the spokesman said. State Department voice Matthew Miller on Thursday (11).

Miller said the U.S. has also “engaged with European allies and partners in recent days” to convey a similar message about Iran. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron spoke with Iran's foreign minister in recent days.

Blinken “has been clear to all countries that have some semblance of a relationship with Iran that it is in their interest to use that relationship to send a message to Iran that they must not escalate this conflict. But I will let these countries speak for themselves about what steps they can and cannot take,” Miller said.

The US State Department has restricted travel by US government officials in Israel in the wake of public threats against Israel by Iran.

“Out of an abundance of caution, U.S. government employees and their family members are prohibited from personal travel outside the greater Tel Aviv (including Herzliya, Netanya, and Even Yehuda), Jerusalem, and Be'er Sheva areas until further notice,” a security alert said. posted by the US Embassy on Thursday said: “US Government employees are authorized to transit between these three areas for personal travel.”

“The security environment remains complex and can change rapidly depending on the political situation and recent developments,” the alert noted.

France has advised its citizens to “absolutely refrain” from traveling to Iran, Lebanon, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories due to the risk of “military escalation”, the French Foreign Ministry said on Friday (12). .

The ministry added that families of diplomatic staff in the Iranian capital, Tehran, will return to France and civil servants will be banned from work missions in those countries and territories. The French foreign minister issued the new recommendation following a crisis meeting in the region, the ministry said in a post on X.

*With information from CNN's Oren Liebermann, Zachary Cohen, Jennifer Hansler and Piper Hudspeth Blackburn.

Source: CNN Brasil

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