Iran Threatens Missile Strike on Israel, US Targets if Syria Attacked

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Iran will unleash a barrage of hundreds of missiles against Israel and U.S. targets in Iraq if Iran or Syria are attacked, an Iranian Web site threatened on Monday, in comments linked to an alleged Israeli air strike on a secret Syrian nuclear facility.

The threat comes after weekend reports in American and British media gave details of the alleged Israeli air strike on Sept. 6, in which Israeli fighter planes reportedly bombed a depot holding nuclear materials inside Syria that reportedly had been supplied by North Korea.

The Iranian threat also comes a day after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that the international community should "prepare for the worst ... which is war" against Iran.

In response to Kouchner's comments, Iran's official news agency IRNA said in an editorial on Monday that "the new occupants of the Elysee [presidential palace] want to copy the White House" and accused French President Nicolas Sarkozy of taking on "an American skin."

In another apparent reaction to the Syrian incident, the Persian-language Web site AsrIran reported Iran has 600 Shihab-3 missiles that it will launch at Israel the first day that Iran or Syria are attacked, Israel's state-run radio -- the "Voice of Israel" -- said on Monday.

With a possible range of up to 1,260 miles, the Shihab-3 could reach all of Israel, including its nuclear reactor in southern Israel, the site said.

The Web site also said that Iran would launch 10 to 15 missiles at U.S. targets inside Iraq if either Iran or Syria is attacked.

Dr. Ephraim Kam, deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies, said the alleged Israeli air strike in Syria had sent a "clear message" to Iran that Israel or the U.S. would be willing to take military action against Iran's nuclear program.

According to Orly Ram, head of Voice of Israel's Persian language service, which is broadcast into Iran, that message was received in Tehran.

"Iran is in panic," Ram told Cybercast News Service, over the alleged Israeli attack against the Syrian target and over comments made by Kouchner and others in the Western media recently. That is why Tehran is sending out this message now, she said.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the U.S., Britain, China, France and Russia -- and Germany are scheduled to meet this week in Washington to discuss the possibility of stepping up sanctions against Iran, a move resisted until now by Russia and China.

The U.S. has been leading the largely Western campaign against the Iranian nuclear program, which it believes is being used as a cover-up for the development of an atomic bomb. Iran denies the charges.

Washington has said that it has not ruled out using a military option against Iran to halt its nuclear pursuits.

Iran is accused of supplying weapons to Hizballah via Syria in contravention of the United Nations resolution that ended the war. The U.S. has accused both Iran and Syria of aiding the insurgency fighting against American and allied troops in Iraq.

Uncharacteristic silence

Relations between Iran and Syria have been strengthening over the past few years. Though the U.S. has attempted to woo Syria out of the Iranian camp, Iran and Syria have become increasingly viewed as rogue states since the 2006 Israeli-Hizballah war.

Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin indicated that Israeli deterrence -- severely damaged as a result of Israel's perceived loss in the war against Hizballah in Lebanon last summer -- had been restored.

In his only comment on Syria, Yadlin told Israeli lawmakers on Sunday that Israeli deterrence was "having an impact on the whole region, including on Iran and Syria," the Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.

The Israeli government has maintained an uncharacteristic silence over the alleged attack in Syria.

Syria has also kept quiet. Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa said that the "military and political echelon is looking into a series of responses."

The state-run Syrian newspaper al-Thawra dismissed the allegations of Syrian-North Korean nuclear cooperation as a "flagrant lie" and suggested that they might be a "prelude to a new aggression against Syria."

The British Sunday Times reported on Sunday that plans for the attack on the Syrian target began last spring, when the head of Israeli secret service -- Mossad Meir Dagan -- presented Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with evidence that Syria was trying to obtain nuclear capabilities from North Korea.

Dagan believed that the nuclear device could be fitted onto North Korean-manufactured Scud-C missiles.

The paper quoted an Israeli source as saying that it was "supposed to be a devastating Syrian surprise for Israel."

Kam said that Syria was in a bind because it did not want to have to admit it had nuclear ambitions. Israel was keeping quiet about the strike because it didn't want Syria to react militarily, he said.

There are many unanswered questions about the reported Israeli strike inside Syria, said Kam -- questions like what kind of site Israel hit, how long it would have taken Syria to build a bomb, did it have technology, materials or a complete plant from North Korea, he said.

But had Syria succeeded in making a nuclear bomb, it would have "changed the entire balance of power between Israel and Syria" and the "rules of the game" in the entire Middle East.

The Israeli-Syrian border has been relatively quiet for 30 years primarily because Israel had a response to anything Syria might have done to heat up the border, Kam told Cybercast News Service.

But if Syria had the "safety net" of a nuclear weapon, Israel would have lost its deterrence vis-e-vis Syria and Iran, and Syria might have been tempted to take military action on the Golan Heights, said Kam.

Some 20,000 Israeli citizens live in primarily rural communities on the strategic plateau that overlooks the Sea of Galilee, Israel's main freshwater source.

Assuming that the story about the Israeli bombing is correct, most of the Middle East players -- Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, as well as the Americans, Europeans and British -- are likely happy with the Israeli action, said Kam.

If Syria had obtained nuclear capabilities, the radical Syrian-Iranian axis would have been strengthened on the basis of two local actors with nuclear capability, he said.

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.