Israel: Iran Has Turned Lebanon Into A 'Ball of Explosives'

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel is not interested in picking a fight with Iran, but it wants Tehran to take its weapons and ill intentions and "go home," informed sources in Jerusalem said on Tuesday.

The comments are part of an accelerating war of words that began on Monday. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres accused Iran of turning Lebanon into a "ball of explosives," and Iranian Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani threatened Israel with an "unimaginable" response to any military offensive.

The Iranians have supplied the Hizballah with 10,000 rockets with ranges of 13 to 44 miles that will be able to "hit the heart of Israel," Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told reporters after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday.

"They have converted Lebanon into a ball of explosives, endangering the future of Lebanon," Peres charged. "On top of that, the Iranians are having the Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon, which is illegal under the United Nations charter."

The Iranian-backed Hizballah waged an 18-year guerrilla and terrorist war against Israeli troops in southern Lebanon and residents in northern Israel until Israel withdrew its troops in May 2000.

Three Israelis have been kidnapped and three killed in skirmishes over a disputed border area since then. The U.N. has backed Israel's position that the land is Syrian and not Lebanese.

The elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been stationed in Lebanon for several years, working behind the scenes, training units, advising and supplying weapons, informed sources said.

One source on Tuesday compared the current situation to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis in the U.S.

At that time, President John F. Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba to stop the Soviet Union from building missile bases in Cuba, just 90 miles off the U.S. coast. Kennedy eased the blockade only after Soviet Premier Khrushchev backed down.

Israel is saying, "Take your weapons and rockets with you and go home," said one source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Nevertheless, he said, it is more likely that Iran intends to continue to threaten Israel with an array of weapons and to support Palestinian suicide bombers, whom he said are supported ideologically by Iran.

President Bush included Iran as one of three countries he described as being part of an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address last week.

Nuclear Threat

Iran, meanwhile, warned Israel on Monday that it had better not carry out an attack against its nuclear reactor.

"If Israel carries out any military action against Iran, it will face a response that will be unimaginable to any Israeli politician," Shamkhani said in an interview with the Qatari-based al-Jazeera television.

Shamkhani said that he was not referring to a nuclear strike.

Iran is in the process of finishing construction of a nuclear reactor with the help of Russian experts. The reactor project began decades ago but was suspended as a result of the Iranian revolution.

Iran is concerned that Israel might launch an air strike against the plant near the Gulf port of Bushehr as it did against an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.

"Iran is not a small country like Iraq. Iran has a powerful artillery, a disciplined army, and skilled air defenses," Shamkhani said.

Israel is concerned about the Iranian development of long-range missiles, which could reach not only Israel, but also Europe and possibly the U.S. Those missiles could be capable of carrying chemical, biological or even nuclear warheads.

Israel's Transport Minister Ephraim Sneh, a former deputy defense minister said on Tuesday that it was Iran's goal to "wipe Israel off the map."

Nevertheless, Sneh said in a radio interview, "Israel never had and does not have any intention of attacking Iran."

Ancient Friends

During the regime of the Shah of Iran, Israel and Iran had "good, friendly relations." Israel's national air carrier El Al offered two weekly flights to Tehran, and Israel had an embassy there with an ambassador. The only condition was that Israel could not fly its flag over the embassy.

Israeli experts were employed in Iran constructing roads and buildings and aiding in agriculture and irrigation. Iranian oil was exported to Israel.

Jewish-Persian (ancient Iran) ties have been intact for thousands of years. In Biblical times, the Persian King Cyrus sent the Jewish people in his kingdom back to Jerusalem and paid for the rebuilding of the Temple there.

But following the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Israel and the U.S. were declared enemies. The building, which had housed the Israeli Embassy, was turned over to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

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