Iran plays down threats to attack Israel

Iranian military commander said Israel would be attacked if US strikes Iran.

ran nukes 298 ap (photo credit: AP)
ran nukes 298 ap
(photo credit: AP)
The Iranian military played down threats by a top Revolutionary Guards commander that Israel would be the Islamic state's first target if attacked by US forces over its nuclear plans, a newspaper said on Thursday. The United States, which accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, says it wants the standoff solved diplomatically but has refused to rule out military action. Iran says it is pursuing only nuclear power generation. "Israel will be the first target on our list if the United States launches an evil attack against us," said Revolutionary Guards Rear Admiral Mohammad-Ebrahim Dehqani on Tuesday. But Alireza Afshar, deputy chief of the military staff, dismissed the remarks. "What he said was his personal view and has no validity as far as the Iranian military officials are concerned," the Kayhan newspaper quoted Afshar as saying. The 120,000-strong Revolutionary Guards corps, formed shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution and inspired by then supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, is independent of the regular army. It answers directly to Khomeini's successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Dehqani also told the student news agency ISNA that large-scale naval war games, held in the Gulf last month, "carried the warning to those countries that threaten Iran, including America and the Zionist regime." Experts said the war games, in which Iran said it had tested new missiles and torpedoes, were a thinly veiled threat that it could disrupt vital Gulf oil shipping lanes if attacked. The United States, Britain and France have circulated a UN Security Council resolution demanding that Iran curb its nuclear ambitions and said they will push for targeted sanctions if it does not. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Thursday that military action is not the solution to the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program. "My conviction is that military action is certainly not the solution," Villepin said at a monthly news conference. "We have already lived through this type of scenario and we know that not only does it settle nothing, but it can raise risks. We have seen this in the most clear way with Iraq." Villepin, who made a famed speech at the United Nations against the war in Iraq in 2003 when he was French foreign minister - urged "unity" and "firmness" within the international community in dealing with Iran. Russia, which has veto power in the council, made clear on Wednesday it would not support any sanctions or the new resolution without modifications. The Western draft did not impose punitive measures.