By AL ARABIYA DUBAI
Iran is on alert and will “punish” any Israeli strike against it, its armed forces chief of staff, General Hassan Firouzabadi, warned Wednesday amid Israeli media speculation of plans for an attack. “We consider any threat ˗ even those with low probability and distant ˗ as a definite threat. We are on full alert,” he said, quoted by Fars news agency. “With the right equipment, we are ready to punish them and make them regret (committing) any mistake,” he said. Firouzabadi also said the United States “will suffer serious damages should there be a military attack by the Zionist regime against Iran.” Media in Israel are speculating that there are plans to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities but that the government was split on the issue. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday denied that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already decided to launch an attack against Iran over the opposition of military and intelligence chiefs. But an Israeli daily reported Netanyahu and Barak are trying to muster a majority in the cabinet in favor of military action against Iran. Israel’s Haaretz said that Netanyahu and Barak recently persuaded Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who previously objected to attacking Iran, to support such a move. Leading ministers were publicly dropping hints on Tuesday that Israel could attack Iran, although a member of the forum of eight senior ministers said no such decision had been taken.
IAEA report will be decisive
Senior ministers and diplomats said the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report, to be released on Nov. 8, will have a decisive effect on the decisions Israel makes, according to the newspaper. Haaretz cited Western experts’ analyses that an attack on Iran in winter is almost impossible, because the thick clouds would hinder the Israel Air Force’s performance. During his Knesset address on Monday, Netanyahu warned of Iran’s increased power and influence. “One of those regional powers is Iran, which is continuing its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran would constitute a grave threat to the Middle East and the entire world, and of course it is a direct and grave threat on us,” he said. Barak said Israel should not be intimidated but did not rule out the possibility that Israel would launch a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. “I object to intimidation and saying Israel could be destroyed by Iran,” he said. “We’re not hiding our thoughts. However, there are issues we don’t discuss in public … We have to act in every way possible and no options should be taken off the table … I believe diplomatic pressure and sanctions must be brought to bear against Iran,” he said. Israel and several Western nations accuse Iran of seeking to build an atomic arsenal under cover of its nuclear energy program, despite Tehran’s repeated denials. Israel itself is widely held to possess several hundred nuclear missiles but has a policy of neither confirming nor denying that.
The reports of a possible attack on Iran came hours before Israel test-fired a ballistic missile from a military base in central Israel. Israeli radio said the launch was carried out from the Palmachim facility. It quoted a Defense Ministry statement as saying the launch was aimed at testing the missile’s propulsion system, according to Reuters. “This had been planned by the defense establishment a long time ago and has been carried out as scheduled.” A Defense Ministry official declined to comment on the type of rocket tested. But Israel Radio’s military affairs correspondent, who is regularly briefed by top officers on defense matters, said a ballistic missile was launched. Israel successfully test-fired a two-stage, long-range ballistic missile in 2008. It is widely believed to have Jericho missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, civilian “Shavit” rockets used to launch satellites and the Arrow missile interceptor.
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