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Israel and US cannot accept a nuclear Iran amid fears of Tehran atomic breakout: 'red line'

As Israel fights back against a surprise attack from Iran-backed Hamas, experts say it is also critical for the country to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons.

Israel is facing a crisis on multiple fronts, battling back from a surprise attack by Hamas that began last week while continuing efforts to prevent a nuclear armed Iran.

"Iran would follow through on its promise to wipe Israel off the map, they mean it," Robert Greenway, the director of the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News Digital of the repercussions of Iran becoming a nuclear state.

Greenway's comments come after Israel was suddenly forced to defend itself from a surprise attack by Hamas, an Iranian-backed terrorist organization, last weekend, with continued clashes leaving thousands dead as Israeli forces launch counterattacks into the Gaza Strip.

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The attack led to immediate speculation that Iran had a direct role in approving or planning the attack, though U.S. intelligence officials have said in recent days that Iran was actually caught off guard by the attack and did not plan or approve it.

Nevertheless, U.S. officials have said they are not turning a "blind eye" to Iran's role in the chaos, with National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby saying that Hamas would not have been able to pull off the attack without continued support from Iran.

"Nobody has turned a blind eye to Iranian destabilizing behavior," Kirby told reporters earlier this week. "We're obviously recognizing that there's broad complicity here by the Iranians, I mean, because of the longstanding support to Hamas. Hamas wouldn't have been able to function at all had it not been for propping up by the Iranian regime. But we haven't seen any specific evidence that tells us they were wittingly involved in the planning or involved in the resourcing and the training that went into this very complex set of attacks over the weekend." 

Regardless of Iran's specific role in the most recent attacks, Israel is still faced with the reality that the country is closer to having nuclear weapons than they have ever been. According to an analysis from Iran Watch, which tracks the Iranian nuclear program, Tehran has "reached the point at which, within three weeks, Iran might be able to enrich enough uranium for five fission weapons."

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"Weaponization activities could take anywhere from several months to a year or more, although the timeframe is uncertain," the analysis added.

"We're really kind of past, what Israel said years ago, to be their red line," Greenway said. 

However, any actions Israel or the United States could take to prevent Iran from pushing their nuclear program across the finish line introduces more questions, Greenway argued, noting that the allies would have to be ready for how Iran responds to any action.

"It's about what either the U.S. or Israel can do to Iran's nuclear facilities, that's its own question. The real issue is what happens the day after and the day after that," Greenway said. "The problem where this becomes incredibly complicated is Iran's response and our response [to Iran]. You very quickly get into a regional escalation spiral that requires an enormous amount of resources and a much higher degree of risk."

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Robert Peters, a research fellow for the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News Digital that Israel has faced similar options in the past.

"Israel's faced this twice before in its history. In the 1980s it struck a nuclear facility in Iraq….and again in the late 2000s against a facility in Syria that had the ability to produce plutonium," Peters said. "It's very possible they could do something similar and use long range strike munitions to take out suspected nuclear facilities."

However, Peters also noted that most of Iran's nuclear program is likely underground, calling into question just how effective such a strike would be.

While Greenway believes that both the U.S. and Israel are "eminently capable" of such a strike, he argued that targeting Iran would be a "different picture" than previous strikes, noting Tehran's more advanced air defense capabilities. Meanwhile, both Peters and Greenway agreed that the U.S. and Israel would be wise to avoid any sort of full-scale conflict with Iran, instead arguing that the U.S. should return to the use of "maximum pressure" against its regime.

"Deny them access to resources, start starving them again," Peters said. "That grinds Iran and their progress to a much slower pace, if not to a screeching halt, they have to make difficult decisions."

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