Iran ready for counterstrike against Israel

The Baltimore Sun

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A senior Iranian military official said yesterday that his country had drawn up plans to launch airstrikes against Israel in case of war between the two countries, according to an interview published by an Iranian news agency.

Gen. Mohammed Alavi, a deputy commander in the Iranian air force, told the semi-official Fars News Agency that his country could attack Israel with long-range missiles as well as fighter planes in case of war between the two countries.

Israeli and U.S. officials have threatened the possibility of pre-emptive attacks on Iran to block it from obtaining advanced nuclear technology that could be used to build atomic weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is meant only to augment civilian energy needs.

Military analysts say Iran could retaliate against any U.S. or Israeli air raids by hitting targets in the Persian Gulf, disrupting oil flows or launching attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But Alavi said an Israeli attack on Iran would prompt retaliation against Israel.

"We can also attack them by our fighter planes and respond to their possible airstrikes," Alavi said, according to the news agency

He said he didn't think Israel would attack Iran. But he maintained that Iran had sophisticated air defense systems to counter fighter jets and cruise missiles and that any enemy air force would lose 30 percent of its fighters during an air operation.

Israel is less than 600 miles from Iran's western edge. Iran's Shahab-class missiles, based on a North Korean design, easily could reach the Levant, military experts say.

Israel and the U.S., along with allies in Europe, are locked in a war of words and military posturing with Iran, which seeks the capability to enrich uranium despite the opposition of the U.N. Security Council. Enriched uranium can be used to fuel a nuclear power plant or, if highly concentrated, build a bomb.

The nuclear issue has sparked tensions in the oil-rich Persian Gulf, causing the price of crude to spike to near-record highs recently.

Borzou Daragahi writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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