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Outgoing IDF chief says the IDF is ready to strike Iran at any moment

Kochavi asserts that war with Hezbollah would set Lebanon 'backward 50 years'

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi speaks at a gathering of bereaved brothers, in Tel Aviv, Dec. 13, 2022. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces Chief of the General Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi retires on Monday after 40 years of service in the IDF.

Kochavi spoke Friday with the Jerusalem Post about Iran, Lebanon, the “war between wars” and how the IDF developed its extraordinary ability of to precisely and accurately hit its military targets. 

Kochavi told the Post what the present threat from Iran’s nuclear program is. 

“The situation today [is focused on] four potential bombs, even less,” he said. “It is true that one of them is based on 60% enriched uranium. The distance between 60% and 20% is only a few weeks, so it does not really matter.” 

“What is important is not to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb, but also not to get to the point where it can rapidly break out into a nuclear bomb within weeks,” he said.

Kochavi explained how the IDF readied itself in recent years to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities and other military targets, as well as to prepare for a broader conflict with the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

“This is what we did in recent years. One, we upgraded our intelligence to greatly increase the number of targets. Second, we increased the number of munitions and systems needed to attack Iran, with the process now at a peak. Third, we built operational plans. Fourth, and most important, we are training for this,” he said. 

“We finished two drills. One was during the IDF’s War Month, and the second was at the end of November. We are about to hold a third very large exercise. In under a year, we are going to have carried out three training exercises with dozens of aircraft, refueling aircraft and all of the operative units,” he said. “In addition, we also established an Iran Department in the IDF, led by a major general. All of this speaks for itself regarding the level of preparation that we are achieving.” 

Kochavi stated that the IDF will be ready for the moment the political echelon decides the time has come to attack Iran, whether “in the coming months, or in another year, or if it is in another three years.”

Asked about a possible war by Iran’s terrorist-group ally Hezbollah in Lebanon, in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran, Kochavi said the Israeli response would set Lebanon back 50 years.

“There is no way to know for certain if an attack against Iran will lead Hezbollah to join the fight. It really depends on what the situation is in Lebanon, which is in a state of deterioration. … It is not certain that a decision by Hezbollah to join is a foregone conclusion,” he said. “I want to repeat: Hezbollah and Nasrallah know that Lebanon will be hit in an unprecedented way, which it has never experienced in its history. … It is true that they have many rockets and missiles, but ours are accurate as opposed to their weapons, which mostly are not.” 

“Step into Nasrallah’s shoes. He understands that because of the nuclear program in Iran, Lebanon could be sent backward 50 years. That is the calculation he needs to make in terms of the immensity of the blow that [Lebanon] will experience because of our attacks,” he said.

Kochavi also spoke about the “war between wars,” describing regular Israeli attacks on Iranian assets in the Middle East, especially Iranian military sites in neighboring Syria. Kochavi described how the “war between wars” began and how it grew from a very small and occasional operation to once a week. 

“We started 10 years ago, in 2013, and there were three attacks the whole year. Our average today is more than one a week, and we crossed 52 operations in 2022,” Kochavi said. “Iran still has a desire – even if they don’t actualize the entire vision of [former Quds Force commander] Qasem Soleimani, which in this sense has failed – to put weapons and advanced capabilities in Syria. Although we undermined a large portion of the plan, it doesn’t mean they have stopped trying.”

“We have not finished, and I don’t think [the war between wars] will finish in the next year or two. There will be more attempts, but there is no doubt that we have prevented what was supposed to be there. They wanted hundreds of surface-to-air missiles and surface-to-surface missiles. They wanted tens of thousands of militia men and a second Hezbollah. All of this was thwarted completely,” he said.

Kochavi revealed that the IDF’s operations had succeeded to stop more than 90% of Iranian weapons from getting into Syria. He said the IDF’s famous ability to execute military operations with high precision and accuracy – and little to no collateral damage – including in Gaza, developed over many years.

“There were four operations in Gaza. In Operation Black Belt [2019], there were hours of discussions on how to take out [Islamic Jihad Commander] Baha Abu al-Ata in his apartment without hurting his sleeping children,” Kochavi described. “There were discussions about where he sleeps, on what side, what angle the bomb goes in, and how to calculate the detonation for the right moment in the right place.” 

“This process was designed by the IDF over years, not just during my tenure. But we improved and upgraded the intelligence capabilities, since precision starts with intelligence. … Next, we upgraded the ability to manufacture and produce targets. The fact that we attacked 200 Islamic Jihad targets in 55 hours in Operation Breaking Dawn [August 2022], just a year and a half after we hit Islamic Jihad targets in Operation Black Belt, shows this capability. This is largely thanks to the new target administration that works with AI.” 

“We also are in the process of a digital transformation so that everyone sees the same picture of intelligence – in the war room, the drone and the fighter jet. I remember years when the same target appeared in one place for one, and another place for the other. Altogether, myriad capabilities have helped increase the pace of creating targets and the ability to target them with precision,” he said.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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