Iran military plays down threats to strike Israel
Tehran, May 4: 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 today said.
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.
Revolutionary Guards Rear Admiral Mohammad-Ebrahim Dehqani, said on Tuesday that Israel would be Iran's first target in response to any ''evil'' act by the United States.
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.
The Islamic Republic has refused to recognise Israel and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the Jewish state to be ''wiped off the map.'' Dehqani also told the student news agency ISNA that large-scale naval wargames, held in the Gulf last month, ''carried the warning to those countries that threaten Iran, including America and the Zionist regime''.
Experts said the wargames, 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.
But 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.