PARIS, 21 Aug. (IPS) As the war of words escalate between the Islamic Republic and the Jewish State, with both sides menacing each other with their latest weapons, including Shahab-3 missiles for Iran and Arrow for Israel, some Arab commentators wonder whether Tehran is serious in its menaces against Israel.
In an interview last week with the Qatari Television "Al Jazira", Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the Iranian Defence Minister quoted some high-ranking officers suggesting "pre-emptive strikes" against Israel and American forces in the Persian Gulf.
The alarming statements have created more concern among Arab neighbours than in Israel, as seen by a recent article carried out in the Saudi Arabian daily "Arab News".
"We will not sit (with arms folded) to wait for what others will do to us. Some military commanders in Iran are convinced that preventive operations which the Americans talk about are not their monopoly", Mr. Mr Shamkhani warned in the interview when asked about the possibility of a US or Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Some days earlier, the same Minister had surprised the word by revealing that Iran had a "nuclear-based defence capacity".
A day before, a high-ranking Revolutionary Guards commander had stated that in case Israel attack Iranian nuclear facilities, "it should permanently forget about Dimona nuclear centre", referring to Israel’s best-known nuclear site.
"If Israel fires one missile at Booshehr atomic power plant, it should permanently forget about Dimona nuclear centre, where it produces and keeps its nuclear weapons, and Israel would be responsible for the terrifying consequence of this move", the acting Revolutionary Guards Commander General Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr warned.
As usual in such cases, when Iranian officials makes declarations that provokes strong reactions in the international community, the Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry immediately "corrected" the statement, saying Mr. Shamkhani had been "misunderstood", even though the Minister was talking in Farsi, leaving no place for "misinterpretation".
Nevertheless, the alarming statements have created more concern among Arab neighbours than in Israel, as seen by a recent article carried out in the Saudi Arabian daily "Arab News".
"In the early nineties, an American newspaper attributed to a Saudi diplomat a statement to the effect that his country saw the strength of the Iraqi Army, after the Iraq-Iran war, as a source of threat. The Iraqi government protested and said that its army’s strength was directed at Israel and would always be directed so. The Saudi government had to clarify that the statement of the diplomat did not represent the government’s views", wrote Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid.
"A few months after this incident, the Iraqi Army invaded the Saudi city Al-Khafji in the northern border, after occupying Kuwait.
‘The Saudi diplomat was right. The Iraqi Army proved to be a threat to Saudi Arabia, and no threat at all to Israel. It did not march toward Israel", Mr. Al Rashid noted.
"These days, Iran says the same thing about its nuclear weapon program. It is developing a nuclear arsenal and naturally the countries in the region are worried. But Iran keeps on assuring all that its nuclear program is directed toward Israel, as are its developed missiles.
"That is sweet talk calculated to win our support. Israel’s track record in the region is such that anyone who stands up against it will be forgiven all his crimes. "And Iran has a record that will give credibility to the claim that it is developing an Israeli-specific arsenal. It is a country opposed to Israel. It is taking the side of the Palestinians and supported Hezbollah in Lebanon in the fight against Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. It is also supporting Syria for the same reasons.
A closer look will show that if Iran’s weapon program is directed against Israel, there is no reason for it to continue developing them because there has never been a military clash between the two.
"But a closer look will show that if Iran’s weapon program is directed against Israel, there is no reason for it to continue developing them because there has never been a military clash between the two", he added.
"All countries in the region use Israel as an excuse for their actions. Israel, it is true, is an enemy. However, the history of Iran’s wars does not support the theory that the weapons it is building are to fight Israel.
"A cursory look at the war record reveals another fact important to us in the Kingdom: Iran has a record of clashes with Saudi Arabia. There were air and ground engagements between them. Iran also had confrontations with the UAE and Qatar. Iran’s fights with other nations include clashes with Afghanistan during the Taleban regime before Sept. 11 and also with Azerbaijan and the war with Iraq.
We know of all these clashes. The date and details of what occurred when and where are in our files. But we have never heard of a single clash between Israel and Iran. This makes Iran’s neighboring countries worried about it continuing to build and develop nuclear weapons.
"Iran does not share borders with Israel and has had no hostile contact with it. It is only supporting forces that fight Israel. Its developed weapons cannot be sent to these parties to fight Israel. Then who are the targets of these sophisticated weapons?
"There is only one logical answer: Neighboring countries. And they are already paying the cost. They are the ones scared by Iran’s race to build weapons. They don’t scare Israel.
"And the scared neighboring countries are being forced to buy more weapons to defend themselves. And the happy ones are those countries that build and sell these weapons", Mr. Al-Rashid concluded. ENDS IRAN NUKE NEIGHBOURS 21804