JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—The international debate on sanctions versus a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear armament program took on a new dimension Tuesday, as Iran announced it will strike first if it feels threatened.
Gen. Mohammad Hejazi, the deputy head of the Islamic Republic’s armed forces, told the Fars news agency that Iran will not wait to be attacked. “Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran’s national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act without waiting for their actions,” he said.
Hejazi’s warning came amid increasing international sanctions against Iran’s nuclear armament program, the latest of which are aimed at blocking its oil exports. On Monday, the European Commission announced that Belgium, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands had stopped buying Iranian oil, while Greece, Spain, and Italy are cutting back purchases.
His remarks also followed Israeli protests against recent criticism of alleged Israeli consideration of a preemptive strike against Iran by senior American officials.
Both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly complained to US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in Jerusalem this week about remarks made by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Dempsey told CNN on Sunday that, “I don’t think a wise thing at this moment is for Israel to launch a military attack on Iran,” and a strike “would be destabilizing” and “not prudent.”
Dempsey said the United States has so far not been able to persuade Israel not to attack Iran. “I wouldn’t suggest that we’ve persuaded them that our view is the correct view,” he said.
Netanyahu was also said to be furious over an NBC broadcast two weeks ago, which said that Israel would attack Iran’s nuclear facilities with Jericho missiles, commando forces, and F-15I jets.
Meanwhile, a top US intelligence official said last week that although the US believes Iran would respond if attacked, it does not think it is likely to start a conflict.