TEHRAN (AFP) – Israel will “dig its own grave” if it attacks Iranian nuclear sites, the head of the Iranian air force General Seyed Reza Pardis warned, reacting defiantly to threats by the Jewish state.
“The threats of the Zionist regime hold no value for us,” Pardis was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency, close to Islamic hardliners, following statements by Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz.
“The (Zionist) regime knows that the armed forces of the Islamic republic, in particular our air force, have such high capabilities … that it would be digging its own grave in the region if it launches military attacks against Iran,” Pardis said.
“An attack (by Israel) would have serious consequences beyond the imagination of Israeli leaders,” he warned.
Jerusalem-based Haaretz newspaper on Sunday quoted Iranian-born Mofaz as telling Israel radio’s Persian service last week that Israel is considering an operation to destroy the nuclear capabilities of Iran, regarded as the Jewish state’s number one enemy following the fall of Saddam Hussein.
If such attacks are launched, “the necessary steps will be taken so that Iranian citizens will not be harmed,” the daily quoted Mofaz as saying.
“The Israeli regime’s war minister must know that if ever these threats become reality, no place in Israel will be safe for the leaders of the country, and the Zionist regime will pay a particularly high price,” Iranian Defense Minister Ali Chamkhani was quoted Monday as saying by student news agency ISNA.
But, Chamkhani added, Mofaz’s threats appeared “unreal and improbable” to him, because Israel “has full knowledge of Iran’s capacity to respond.”
“Whether these threats are serious or not, our armed forces are totally prepared to defend sensitive sites and our country’s air space,” air force chief Pardis said.
Iran’s reformist President Mohammad Khatami reacted to Mofaz’s threats by saying simply: “They (Israel) will go adrift.”
Last month, Meir Dagan, head of Israel’s Mossad overseas intelligence service, told lawmakers that Iran’s nuclear programme posed the biggest threat to the existence of the Jewish state since its creation in 1948.
He said Israel had discovered in recent months that Iran was close to finishing construction of a uranium enrichment plant in the central Kashan area that could eventually give it the capacity to build around a dozen nuclear bombs.
And during a visit to Washington in November, Mofaz warned of the rising nuclear threat posed by Iran, saying that efforts must be taken to “slow down, stop or prevent” the programme.
However, Iran last week won plaudits from the international community by signing the additional protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that opens the way for snap UN inspections of sites.
Iran says Israel should now follow its lead and bring its own nuclear facilities under international oversight.
Early this month in an interview published in Haaretz, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei urged Israel to give up its nuclear arsenal, warning it fueled a regional arms race.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that it has nuclear weapons, but Washington has accepted Israel as a nuclear power since 1969 and analysts say it has up to 200 sophisticated nuclear weapons.