Sunday, June 29, 2008

Report: Iran to hit Israel if attacked

Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran - The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards warned that Tehran would respond to an attack against it by barraging Israel with missiles and controlling a key oil passageway in the Persian Gulf, said a newspaper report published Saturday. The report in the conservative Jam-e-Jam newspaper comes after the disclosure of a recent Israeli military exercise over the Mediterranean Sea that was seen as sending a message to Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.

Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said there were strong deterrents against striking Iran, including the country's missile power, the vulnerability of Israeli and U.S. forces in the region and the low probability of a successful attack.

Iran has spread its nuclear facilities across the country and has built key portions underground to protect it from airstrikes.

But Jafari warned that if attacked, Iran would strike back, including choking off the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a narrow outlet for oil tankers leaving the Persian Gulf.

"Naturally, any country coming under attack will use all of its capacity and opportunities to confront the enemy. Given the main route for energy to exit the region, one of Iran's steps will definitely be to exercise control on the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz," Jafari told Jam-e-Jam, which is affiliated with Iran's state-run radio and television network.

In 2006, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also threatened to disrupt the world's oil supply if the United States attacked Iran. Iran is the world's fourth largest oil producer. About 60 percent of the world's oil passes through the strait.

"Should a confrontation erupt between us and the enemy, the scope will definitely reach the oil issue. ... Oil prices will dramatically increase. This is one of the factors deterring the enemy from taking military action," Jafari was quoted as saying.

U.S. officials have suggested that the Israeli drill, conducted from May 28 to June 12, was a dress rehearsal for an Israeli strike.

But the Greek government, which took part in the exercise, rejected that assessment. And some observers have said the disclosure of the maneuvers was aimed at getting the international community to step up diplomatic pressure on Iran.

Just before the drill, Europe presented Tehran an offer of economic incentives to halt its enrichment of uranium.

Iran has not formally responded. Less than a week ago, the European Union named Iran's largest commercial bank, the Revolutionary Guards' chief and the head of the country's nuclear program as the targets of new sanctions imposed over Tehran's nuclear defiance.

The United States and Israel say Iran's nuclear program is intended to produce weapons — a claim Iran denies, saying its program is for peaceful purposes including producing energy.

Israel has a doctrine of "nuclear ambiguity" and has never confirmed nor denied having its own nuclear weapons program.

Jafari also warned that an attack against Iran will also prompt Muslims, including Shiites, to harm U.S. and Israeli interests throughout the Middle East in retaliation to any attack against Iran. He mentioned the Tehran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Iran and Israel are each other's biggest foes, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel's destruction. Though Israel has said it favors a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff, it has not ruled out a military strike.

An Israeli air attack that destroyed an unfinished nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981 and a strike on a suspected nuclear facility in Syria in September have added to the suspicions that Israel is planning action against Iran..

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