Iran: If Israel strikes,
‘we will react’

By Aaron Klein

Insisting again its nuclear program is peaceful, Iran repeated a warning yesterday that it would retaliate if Israel attacks any of its nuclear facilities.

“If they would do that, we would react,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said during a visit to New Zealand.

“We have our defense capability and that certainly keeps others from exercising such a threat,” he said. “They know what is our capability and how … we react.”

Kharrazi’s comments come amid tensions between the U.S. and Israel toward Iran, particularly in recent weeks. Israeli suspicions continue to grow that Iran is pursuing a nuclear-weapons program in the guise of a peaceful nuclear-power industry.

Kharrazi insisted: “Iran has no program to produce nuclear weapons. It is our legitimate right to have nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.”

Iran last week announced it may decide to pre-empt an Israeli or American strike with an attack against the Jewish state or U.S. interests in the Middle East. The Ayatollahs have also gone to great lengths to warn that Iran can “hit anywhere in Israel” with its upgraded version of the Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile.

Iran signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and has obligated itself to random inspections supervised by the IAEA. The treaty allows Iran to produce nuclear material as long as it can plausibly claim the production is for “peaceful purposes.”

Experts warn that Iran can build the infrastructure needed to make nuclear weapons, telling inspectors they need the material for “energy and nuclear medicine research,” and then kick out the inspectors, renounce the treaty and quickly assemble a nuclear arsenal, as did North Korea, which is now said to have ten nuclear warheads.

Under an Iranian deal with Moscow, waste produced at Iran’s Bushehr plant containing plutonium that could be used in bomb-making would be shipped back to Russia for storage, but the material must first be cooled, providing Iran with what Washington fears could be up to two years in which to extract the plutonium.

Israeli sources say a quarter ton of plutonium could be produced each a year if Bushehr is fully functional, enough for 20 bombs.