TEHRAN – The top commander in Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard warned Sunday that his country's missiles will ensure "nothing will remain" of Israel if it takes military action against Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.
Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari also warned that Iran might close the Straits of Hormuz if it is attacked, withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and hit U.S. bases in the Middle East.
Such warnings and references to Israel's destruction have been made before by Iranian officials. But Gen. Jafari's comments to a Tehran news conference were an unusually detailed, strongly worded and comprehensive listing of the means that Iran says it has to retaliate against a strike on its nuclear facilities.
The U.S. and Israel have left open the possibility of such a strike if Iran does not back down from what they say are a push to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
"Our response to Israel is clear: I think nothing will remain of Israel (should it attack Iran). Given Israel's small land area and its vulnerability to a massive volume of Iran's missiles, I don't think any spot in Israel will remain safe," he said.
He 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 whom have rocket arsenals that could be used for cross-border strikes.
He said he did not believe however that Israel would attack on its own. Should the U.S. launch a strike, Jafari suggested that Iran could respond with missile salvos at U.S. bases in the Gulf.
"The US military bases sprawled around Iran are considered a big vulnerability. Even the missile shields that they have set up, based on information we have, could only work for a few missiles but when exposed to a massive volume of missiles, the shields will lose their efficiency and will not work," he said.
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.
"If a war breaks out where one side is Iran and the other side is the West and U.S., it's natural that a problem should occur in the Strait of Hormuz. Export of energy will be harmed. It's natural that this will happen," he said.
Gen. Jafari said that, if 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.
"If the world and international organizations fail to prevent such an attack, it's natural that Iran's commitments (to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty) would naturally change and the situation would be different from the past. These are the risks and consequences that such an attack will bring about, and these matters would be a deterrent."
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.