Iran threatens strike
against U.S., Israel

By Aaron Klein

Iran says it is deeply concerned about the U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, and announced yesterday that some Iranian generals favor pre-emptive strikes against U.S. and Israeli forces if they sense an imminent threat.

Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani told al-Jazeera television Tehran will not stand by if it believes U.S. or Israeli forces are preparing an attack. Shamkhani also said Israel needs American approval to carry out any attack.

“It’s certain to us that Israel won’t carry out any military action without a green light from America. So, you can’t separate the two,” said Shamkhani

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. troops in Iraq, says the military has not changed the way it is operating in the region as a result of the Iranian remarks.

The comments come amid heightened tensions between Iran, the U.S. and Israel over Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran says its first nuclear-power station is to simply “generate electricity.” But President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon say they suspect Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons.

Last week, an Iranian military official told reporters Israel and the United States “would not dare” attack Iran since it could strike back anywhere in Israel and against U.S. military installations in the Middle East with its latest missiles, including the Shehab-3 medium-range ballistic missile, which experts say is capable of striking Israel or U.S. bases in the Gulf.

Israel last month conducted military exercises for a pre-emptive strike against several of Iran’s nuclear-power facilities and is ready to attack if Russia supplies Iran with rods for enriching uranium.

An Israeli defense source said, “Israel will on no account permit Iranian reactors – especially the one being built in Bushehr with Russian help – to go critical.”

The source also said any strike on Iran’s reactors would probably be carried out by long-range F-15I jets, flying over Turkey, with simultaneous operations by commandos on the ground.

Russia is expected to deliver the enriching rods, currently being stored at a Russian port, late next year after a dispute over financial terms is resolved.

“If the worst comes to the worst and international efforts fail,” the source said, “we are very confident we’ll be able to demolish the ayatollah’s nuclear aspirations in one go.”