Last year, when Washington withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Tehran—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the Islamic Republic’s initial response was one of patience. While continuing its military adventurism in Iraq, Iran, and Yemen, it did not overtly violate the deal or announce its own withdrawal. But recent Iranian threats to resume uranium enrichment, its apparent attacks on Saudi oil production, and the escalation in the Persian Gulf suggest a change in approach. Amos Yadlin explains:
Over the last month, Iran has experienced intensification of the U.S. policy of “maximum pressure.” . . . The regime in Iran has thus concluded that it must devise a new strategy . . . that is more proactive, albeit measured and cautious. Iran now seeks to exact a price for U.S. measures against it, and has thus embarked on a response made up of action in three realms.
In the nuclear realm, Iran is trying to compel European nations to formulate and implement a promised mechanism that will provide compensation for the sanctions. In the military realm, Iran seeks to exact a price from the United States (and Israel) with the goal of creating deterrence and preserving national pride. Finally, when it comes to energy supply, Iran has threatened Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that if it is unable to export oil, they too will be unable to do so. . . .
[I]n the military realm, Iran has a range of possible actions at its disposal: attacking American soldiers in Syria or Iraq, launching low-signature attacks via proxies in Syria, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip against American interests or allies, including Israel. . . .
Any military clash between Iran and the United States—be it in the Gulf, Iraq, or Syria, or a blockade of the Strait of Hormuz—would not have a direct impact on Israel, but there would be indirect repercussions. The odds of Iran leaving Israel out of such a fight, should it emerge, are slim. [Moreover,] Israel must prepare for the possibility that Iran will choose [to renew nuclear activity. . . . Israel should also consider the possibility that the United States will not take effective action to stop the Iranian nuclear program (after all, the Trump administration is not keen on further military engagements in the Middle East). Therefore, Israel must update its force-buildup plans to enable it to cope with a potential Iranian nuclear breakout alone.