DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran makes no distinction between U.S. and Israeli interests and will retaliate against both countries if attacked, an Iranian military commander said on Wednesday.
The comments came after the White House denied an Israeli news report that it was negotiating with Tehran to keep out of a future Israel-Iran war and as U.S. President Barack Obama fends off accusations from his election rival that he is too soft on Tehran.
“The Zionist regime separated from America has no meaning, and we must not recognize Israel as separate from America,” Ali Fadavi, naval commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.
“On this basis, today only the Americans have taken a threatening stance towards the Islamic Republic,” Fadavi said. “If the Americans commit the smallest folly they will not leave the region safely.”
Iran - which has missiles that could reach Israel and U.S. targets in the region - has conducted military exercises and unveiled upgraded weapons in recent months, aiming to show it can defend itself against any strike against its nuclear sites.
Israel - thought to be the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons - says the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran would pose a threat to its existence. Tehran denies it is developing weapons and says its nuclear program is peaceful.
With the approach of U.S. elections in November, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a tougher stance against Iran - implicitly knocking Obama’s emphasis on diplomatic and sanctions pressure to halt Iranian nuclear work.
While Israel would expect U.S. backing if it decided to strike Iran, the top U.S. general has suggested Washington would not be drawn into a conflict.
“I don’t want to be complicit if they choose to do it,” Britain’s Guardian newspaper quoted Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey as saying.
Netanyahu abruptly ended a meeting of Israel’s security cabinet on Wednesday, saying someone in the forum had leaked details of its discussions on Iran.
Any decision to go to war against Iran would, by Israeli law, require the approval of the security cabinet. One government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no such decisions had been on the table at Tuesday’s meeting.
Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Robin Pomeroy