'Iran Preparing Graves for Its Enemies'

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A senior Iranian commander on Sunday said his country would prepare 320,000 graves to accommodate its slain enemies in the event of an attack on the country. The remark was a veiled warning amid increasing tensions over Tehran's controversial nuclear activities.

The Mehr news agency quoted Gen. Mir-Faisal Bagherzadeh as saying the graves would be dug in Iran's border provinces, to provide for the burial of enemies in line with the Geneva Conventions.

"The burial of slain soldiers will be carried out decently and in little time," said Bagherzadeh, a senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) who heads a propaganda body called the Sacred Defense Foundation.

"We do not wish the families of enemy soldiers to experience what Americans had to go through in the aftermath of the Vietnam War," he added, apparently referring to the ordeal faced by families of MIAs during and after that conflict.

Although couched in humanitarian terms, Bagherzadeh's comments come as top Iranians step up belligerent rhetoric in the face of reports suggesting that Israel or the United States are planning to attack Iran, and specifically its nuclear facilities.

The head of the IRGC, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, at the weekend delivered stern warnings to Iran's enemies, telling the conservative Jam-e Jam newspaper that Israel was within easy range of Iran's missiles.

"Our missile power and capability are such that the Zionist regime -- despite all its abilities -- cannot confront it," he said.

Jafari told Iran's neighbors that they would also be held responsible if they allowed their soil to be used to launch attacks against Iran.

He warned that Iran could strike back at its foes through Hamas and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Sunni and Shi'ite terrorist groups in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon respectively.

"Revolutionary Muslims, whether Shi'ite or Sunni, see the U.S. and Israel attack against Islamic Iran as an attack on the Islamic world and thus defense will be on their mind without a doubt," Jafari was quoted as saying.

Other Iranian retaliation could come in the form of disruption to Gulf oil supplies, transported to world markets through the vulnerable Strait of Hormuz, he said.

"Naturally every country under attack by an enemy uses all its capacity and opportunities to confront the enemy. Regarding the main route for exiting energy, Iran will definitely act to impose control on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz," Jafari said, adding that the price of oil would rise dramatically in such circumstances.

Terror support

Meanwhile, Iranian media gave extensive coverage to a new report claiming that congressional leaders late last year okayed a request by President Bush to fund covert operations against Iran.

Sunday's report in The New Yorker magazine, citing current and former military, intelligence and congressional sources, said cross-border operations were being run into Iran from Iraq, and that members of the IRGC's Quds Force had been seized and taken to Iraq for interrogation.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker on Sunday "flatly" denied that U.S. forces were operating across the border in Iran. He told CNN that Iran's influence in Iraq was declining, mostly because of Iraqi security force successes against Iranian-backed militias.

U.S. military officers in Iraq have long accused the IRGC, and specifically its Quds Force unit, of supporting and supplying anti-coalition Shi'ite militias in neighboring Iraq.

The Pentagon in a report to Congress last week said it had evidence that anti-coalition insurgents in Afghanistan were getting help originating from Iran, although it said it was "unclear what role, and at what level the Iranian government plays in providing this assistance."

The Bush administration last October imposed sanctions on the IRGC, the Quds Force and other entities to punish Tehran for its support of terrorism and its nuclear activities.

Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani at the weekend reiterated Iranian denials of U.S. claims of Iranian support for militias in Iraq.

Speaking on al-Jazeera, he said the U.S. would not likely attack Iran since the repercussions "would be disastrous for the entire region." Any Israeli attack, he said, would draw "massive and fatal" retaliation.

Rafsanjani is currently chairman of the Expediency Council, a consultative body appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The former president is wanted in Argentina for alleged involvement in a deadly 1994 terrorist bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

'Iran must be dealt with urgently'

While claims of Iranian involvement in terrorism have added to regional tensions, the nuclear dispute is the key factor. The U.S. and its allies believe Iran is using its nuclear energy program as a cover for intensive efforts to develop a weapons capability.

Tehran has repeatedly ignored U.N. Security Council sanction-backed demands that it suspend uranium enrichment, saying it will never relinquish its inalienable right to access civilian nuclear energy. It says it is currently considering the latest offer of incentives by the UNSC permanent five members plus Germany in exchange for compliance, but has rejected previous such proposals.

A "sense of Congress" resolution before the House of Representatives and cosponsored by more than 200 bipartisan lawmakers states that "preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, through all appropriate economic, political, and diplomatic means, is vital to the national security interests of the United States and must be dealt with urgently."

Although it does not use the word "blockade," the non-binding resolution says steps should include "prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program."

The resolution explicitly says that it should not be construed as authorization of the use of force against Iran.

Iran's Press TV on Saturday accused the U.S. Jewish lobby of being behind the House resolution and a companion one in the Senate, and said they were "considered a tacit declaration of war against the Islamic Republic."

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow