Tensions between Iran and Israel reached unprecedented heights on Tuesday as both countries made mutual threats. The chief of staff of the Israeli army, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, said on Tuesday that if Iran continues to develop its nuclear program, Israel will have no choice but to launch a preemptive strike. For more news from The Media Line, visit themedialine.org. Iran has made more progress than ever before in uranium enrichment in recent years. "We're looking closely at various areas that are part of the path to nuclear capabilities. There are potential negative trends on the horizon that could move [us]. We have possibilities." Halevi also accused Iran of meddling in "everything around and against us", including strategy, intelligence and financing. “We have the capacity to hit Iran. We are not far from what Iran is trying to do around us. And Iran cannot keep aloof from what we can do against it.” Meanwhile, head of the Department of North American Studies at Tehran University, Prof. Mohammad Marandi is in Indonesia as part of the delegation accompanying President Ebrahim Raisi on his two-day visit to the Asian country. “The Israeli regime is becoming more and more isolated. "Iran's relations with Saudi Arabia and other Arab governments in the Persian Gulf have improved, Iran's relations with Asian powers are improving, and the Iranian president is currently visiting Indonesia." Israel claims that Iran has formed a united front and is preparing for military conflict on several fronts. "It is natural for the region to unite against apartheid and ethnic cleansing," Marandi told The Media Line. Iran holds military exercises as tensions with the US rise Israeli officials' messages were directed not only at Iran, but also at other groups closely linked to the Islamic Republic, including Hezbollah. Marandi claims that if Israel attacks Hezbollah, Iran will "of course" come to its aid. He described the Israeli prime minister's statement, "We always surprise Iran, we will surprise all our enemies," as a "lie". "Even if the regime were to lose, it could go into conflict to strengthen its position in its own country," he says. Marandi said the escalating threats confirm that "Israel is the basis of insecurity and stability in the region and reflects the depth of its internal problems". “The Israeli regime will be the loser in any military exchange. Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and the world knows about Iran's military capabilities," says Marandi. Israel is concerned that Iran is producing uranium close to weapons-grade levels After the collapse of Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers, it is claimed that Iran is now producing near-weapon-grade uranium, and this worries Israel deeply. Although Iran claims to have enriched up to 60% of uranium since the collapse of the deal, investigators recently found that the country produced 83.7% of pure uranium particles. That's just a short step away from reaching the 90% threshold of weapons-grade uranium. Tehran consistently denies that its nuclear program has military purposes and insists it is for civilian use only. A specialist in Iranian affairs at the Institute for National Security Studies, Dr. Raz Zimmt told The Media Line that it's difficult to pinpoint the reason behind this recent escalation, but it could be due to a variety of factors, including local and regional issues. Along with concerns about Iran's nuclear program. "I think it's partly related to two big developments with Hezbollah and Iran," Zimmt says. However, Iranian officials argue that no matter what actions Israel may take against Iran, it cannot take any military action against Iran without American support, or at least a clear position. They added that if Iran misinterprets these threats, the situation could escalate and this scenario would not be in the interests of either side. Responding to Israeli threats, an Iranian official said any military attack on Tehran would be met with "a broad and unprecedented response". Zimmt argues that Iran's progress in its nuclear program guarantees Israel's response. “It is clear that the Iranians enriched uranium up to 60% or even 80% a few weeks ago. This fact forms a component of Israel's statements on Tuesday.” US withdraws from 2015 nuclear deal The United States unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from the 2015 nuclear deal under former President Donald Trump, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. While Israel has never officially acknowledged any attack on its regional enemy, the two countries are reportedly engaged in a covert war involving cyberattacks on each other's infrastructures. In addition, numerous attacks on Iranian soldiers in Syria were attributed to Israel. The escalation follows a simulation of cross-border raids by Lebanon's Hezbollah group last Sunday, where Israel demonstrated its military might using real ammunition and an attack aircraft. Referring to Hezbollah, Halevi said Israel wants to avoid war, but must always be prepared to consider military maneuvers that "could provide an advantage" in the ongoing stalemate. Hezbollah's relative deterrence [from attacking Israel] has been achieved, but this status quo will not last forever," he added. HIZBOLLAH MEMBERS hold their flags during a rally marking the annual Hezbollah Martyrs' Day in the southern suburbs of Beirut last month According to Halevi, this means that Israel "must act to deliver surprises when necessary" to keep Hezbollah on the alert for audacious actions against Israel. Hezbollah officials argue that they have the capabilities to withstand any war imposed on them. "With regard to Hezbollah, my assessment is that the recent increase in self-confidence of the so-called axis of resistance, including Hezbollah, has been evident during the last escalating waves," Zimmt says. It seems to me that Hezbollah insists on its efforts in this direction.” Founded in 1982 to fight the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah serves as Iran's main regional proxy. Considered a "terrorist" organization by many Western governments, this Shiite militant group is the only group in Lebanon to hold its weapons after the 1975-1990 civil war. Israel and Hezbollah entered a devastating war in 2006 after the group captured two Israeli soldiers. Referring to the recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Halevi said, “Some states [Saudi Arabia] have approached Iran. I don't think these states trust Iran or want real peace [with it]. This [new Saudi deal] stems from a desire to reduce regional tensions to avoid a larger conflict.” Dr. Zimmt does not foresee that the recent rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh will significantly affect any possible action Israel may take. "I would say the developments are a bit worrying as it could boost the self-confidence of Iran and Syria, but I wouldn't attribute the statements to that alone," Zimmt says. Iran's neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the UN climate conference known as COP28 in November. Given that it is only a stone's throw from the shores of other Gulf states such as the UAE and Bahrain, Iran perceives Israel's presence as a threat to its national security. "Any regional country that strengthens ties with the Israeli regime simply undermines its own public ," says Marandi. "The UAE certainly does not want to be in the middle of a conflict." Gotopnews.com