A Revolutionary Guards commander said Tuesday that Israel would be Iran's first retaliatory target in response to any U.S. attack, a provocative threat that reinforced the Iranian president's past call for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
"We have announced that wherever (in Iran) America does make any mischief, the first place we target will be Israel," the Iranian Student News Agency quoted Gen. Mohammad Ebrahim Dehghani as saying.
Dehghani, a top commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, also said Israel was not prepared to go to war against Iran.
"We will definitely resist ... U.S. B-52 (bombers)," Dehghani was quoted as saying.
On Tuesday, Israeli elder statesman Shimon Peres called on Iran to scrap its nuclear program and warned: "Remember that Israel is exceptionally strong and knows how to defend itself."
President Bush has said a military option remains on the table if Iran does not agree to international demands for it to stop enriching uranium and open its nuclear program to inspections. However, Bush said he wants to solve the dispute through diplomacy.
Dehghani, who served as a spokesman during Revolutionary Guards war games last month, said the exercises were held ahead of schedule to send a message to the U.S. and its allies against any plans for a military strike.
"We were due to organize the maneuvers in May but because of timing conditions and issues related to nuclear energy and upon the recommendation of Mr. Larijani, it was held 40 days sooner than planned," he said. Ali Larijani is Iran's top nuclear negotiator.
Friday marked the deadline set by the U.N. Security Council for Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment program. Council members are now considering the next steps, which could include punishing sanctions though Russia and China are on record as opposing that option.
"The Security Council will take up the issue of Iran on Wednesday," said CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk from the U.N. "In an afternoon session on non-proliferation, and with elements of a draft resolution circulating, the real test of the U.N. will be if they can get achieve consensus on a resolution that is binding and holds out the possibility of later sanctions."
No vote is expected on a resolution until next week, Falk reports, but the negotiations are intense on how to word the resolution.
"The stakes are high," she said.
The semiofficial student news agency gave no further details on Dehghani's remarks or where he made them.
Israel's army chief, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, said in an interview published Tuesday that the world has the military might to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. He also said that if Iran does obtain nuclear capability, it will constitute a threat to Israel's existence.
When asked if the world can, militarily, stop Iran's nuclear program, Halutz told the Maariv newspaper "Yes, yes. Regarding whether or not the world can, the answer is yes."
Questioned on whether Israel would be involved in such a military operation against its top enemy, Halutz said "We are part of the world."
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