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IDF chief warns Iran now the ‘most dangerous country’ in Middle East

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Sunday said Iran is now the most dangerous country in the Middle East, not just because of its nuclear program, but also through its conventional weapons and support for terror activities against Israel.

Kohavi warned that Iran’s influence reaches into the first of the three circles of threats against Israel, the first being small terror groups on Israel’s borders, like Hamas; the second being larger threats, like the Syrian army and Hezbollah; and the third being countries that do not share a border with Israel, like Iran and Iraq.

“Iran has become the most dangerous country in the Middle East,” Kohavi said at a ceremony to install a new head of the IDF Planning Directorate, held at the army headquarters in Tel Aviv.

“True, it is in the third circle, but it is most influential in the first and second circles,” Kohavi said. “It has made considerable progress in its nuclear program, but the nuclear [threat] is no longer the only threat.

“Iran also holds conventional weapons,” he continued. “It is supporting and financing our enemies in the first circle and chiefly Hezbollah, it influences and supports Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, and it is behind attempts at terror actions against Israel in a variety of dimensions and arenas, near and far.”

At the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Amir Abulafia left the position he has held for the past three years leading the Planning Directorate.

Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, will take command of the IDF’s rejiggered Planning Directorate, which has been renamed the Force Design Directorate and is tasked with overseeing the development of new combat and weapons techniques, specifically in tactics and techniques that require cooperation between the various branches of the military.

Also, former fighter pilot Maj. Gen. Tal Kalman became the new chief of the Strategy and Third-Circle Directorate, an entirely new position on the General Staff, which will focus principally on Israel’s fight against Iran.

The creation of these positions, along with other changes to the structure of the Israel Defense Forces, is part of the military’s multi-year Momentum Plan.

“The reality of recent years has changed significantly — the global and regional environment are very dynamic,” Kalman said. “Faced with these challenges, the IDF is required to operate in a variety of arenas and dimensions.

“By correctly making use of the technology we will expose the hidden enemy and, with high lethality and by realizing the multilateral spaces, carry out what is expected of us, creating force multipliers on the battlefield and reaching a rapid victory in every arena and facing any threat,” Bar said.

In the view of Kohavi, just as there is a major general whose primary mission is overseeing the fight against Hezbollah — head of the Northern Command Maj. Gen. Amir Baram — and one for countering Hamas — Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi — so too should there be a major general responsible for Iran.

“We want someone to wake up every morning with Iran set above his highest joy,” IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters earlier this year, referencing a line from Psalm 137 regarding the importance of Jerusalem.

Kalman’s directorate is responsible for countering Iran and other “third-circle” countries only, not proxies such as the Hezbollah terror group, which will remain the purview of the IDF Northern Command.

Bar’s new Force Design Directorate will work to develop new fighting techniques using aspects of all branches of the military. It is meant to complement the current system, in which each branch of the IDF is responsible for developing and implementing its own tactics — allowing for techniques that use both air power and ground forces, for instance.

Original: TOI – Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.