TEHRAN – The top commander in Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard warned Sunday that "nothing will remain" of Israel if it takes military action against Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.
Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said Iran's response to any attack will begin near the Israeli border. The Islamic Republic has close ties with militants in Gaza and Lebanon, both of which border Israel.
Iran has in the past made reference to the destruction of Israel but his comments at a Tehran news conference were unusually strongly worded and detailed.
He also said that Iran warned that oil shipments through the strategic Strait of Hormuz will be in jeopardy if a war breaks out between Iran and the United States. Iranian officials have previously threatened to close the waterway, the route for a fifth of the world's oil, but less frequently in recent months.
Gen. Jafari also told a news conference in Tehran Sunday that if it is attacked, Iran will no longer be committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, under whose terms U.N. inspectors visit Iranian nuclear sites. He said however that this does not mean that Iran would build a nuclear weapon.
The U.S and Israel have both left open the possibility of a strike on Iran if diplomacy fails to stop what it says is a push for a nuclear weapon. Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Gen. Jafari however said that Iran believes the United States won't attack Iran because it is very vulnerable and its military bases in the Middle East are within the range of Iran's missiles. Jafari also said Israel is very unlikely to take unilateral action.
Israel believes that any attack would likely unleash retaliation, in the form of Iranian missiles as well as rocket attacks by Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Hamas on its northern and southern borders.
Jafari's comments come as U.S.-led naval forces from the West and Arab allies gather for naval maneuvers in the Persian Gulf that include mine-sweeping exercises.