By Larry Derfner, Mideast Watch
In its war of words with Israel, which has heated up since last week's test of an Iranian nuclear power plant, a top Iranian military official warned that an Israeli attack will be met with missiles that can hit "all Israeli land." This claim is considered 100 percent credible by Israeli defense experts, but they are divided about the extent of Iran's ability to arm its long-range missiles with chemical or biological warheads. The Dubai-based Al Arabiya satellite TV station reports:
"Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran has missiles with the range of 2,000 km (1,250 miles), and based on that all Israeli land including that regime's nuclear facilities are in the range of our missile capabilities," the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said.
"The doctrine of our system is defensive, but in the case of any action by enemies, including the Zionist regime, we will respond firmly using missiles and deter attacks," he said in comments carried by the ISNA news agency.
Western Powers Join the United States in Wooing Iran
Meanwhile, the Obama administration's attempts to use diplomacy to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program gained international support as Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany joined the United States in a statement urging Iran to "take this opportunity for engagement with us." The joint statement, issued at the meeting in Vienna of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors, came with both gestures to and demands of Iran attached. Al Arabiya reports:
The six powers omitted mention of sanctions, common in statements by Western members at earlier IAEA meetings, to preserve unity—Russia and China oppose further punitive steps—and underscore a direct diplomatic approach critically undermined by Washington's pointed absence under Bush.But they stressed Iran had to reciprocate by suspending enrichment and giving inspectors documentation and on-the-ground access to resolve allegations of secret military dimensions to Iran's nuclear fuel program.
At that meeting, Tehran came in for criticism from IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei for not cooperating with IAEA inspectors. Even after a six-year probe, the IAEA has failed to definitively say that Iran's controversial nuclear program is entirely peaceful, as Tehran claims.
ElBaradei complained that Iran was stonewalling key questions on the possible military dimension of past nuclear work and defying U.N. orders to stop uranium enrichment, a process that can be used not only to make nuclear fuel, but also the fissile material for a bomb.
Britain Ends Boycott of Hezbollah
In yet another sign of a changed Western attitude toward militant Islam since the advent of Obama, Britain says it is ending its boycott of Hezbollah, the militant Shiite movement that is Lebanon's rising power. Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said Britain "explored establishing contacts" in light of the formation of a unity government in Lebanon that gives Hezbollah effective veto power. Asharq Alawsat reports:
"We will look to have further discussions and our overriding objective within that is to press Hezbollah to play a more constructive role, particularly to move away from violence," Rammell said.
A Foreign Office spokesman said the British government was exploring contacts only with Hezbollah's political wing. Britain said last July it was adding the military arm of Hezbollah to its list of banned organizations. Hezbollah comprises guerrilla fighters, members of parliament, social, medical and reconstruction. It is highly centralized and all members undergo military training.
- Read more of Larry Derfner's Mideast Watch.