A nuclear-armed Iran could deter Israel from going to war in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip against Tehran's terrorist allies, an IDF officer said on Tuesday.

OC Planning Directorate Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel echoed leaders in Jerusalem who argue that a nuclear-armed Iran could create a "global nuclear jungle" and fuel arms races in an already volatile Middle East.

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Eshel made clear that Israel worries that Syria and Hezbollah, as well as Hamas in the Gaza Strip, could one day find reassurance in an Iranian bomb.

"They will be more aggressive. They will dare to do things that right now they would not dare to do," he said in a briefing to foreign journalists and diplomats.

"So this is going to create a dramatic change in Israel's strategic posture, because if we are forced to do things in Gaza or Lebanon under an Iranian nuclear umbrella , it might be different."

Eshel, who spoke at the conservative Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think-tank, quoted an unnamed Indian officer who, he said, had described the Asian power's friction with nuclear-armed rival and neighbor Pakistan in terms of self-restraint.

"When the other side has a nuclear capability and are willing to use it, you think twice," Eshel said. "You are more restrained because you don't want to get into that ball game."

Eshel said there are now some 100,000 rockets and missiles that could be fired at Israel by terrorist groups, Iran and its ally Syria.

Despite seeing its resources strained by a 10-month-old popular uprising, Syria's government has invested $2 billion in air defenses over the last two years, and more on counter-measures against any ground invasion, Eshel said, linking both efforts to Syrian wariness of Israel.

He declined to be drawn on whether Israel might try to attack Iran's distant, dispersed and well-defended nuclear facilities alone - or, conversely, whether it could decide to accept a nuclear-armed Iran as an inevitability to be contained through superior firepower and fortifications.

Those decisions, Eshel said, were up to the government and the armed forces would provide it with a "tool box" of options.

"We have the ability to hit very, very hard, any adversary," said Eshel, a former senior air force officer and fighter pilot. But he cautioned against expecting any decisive "knock-out" blow against Israel's enemies.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

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