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Ahmadinejad has several options at his disposal Photo: AP
Ahmadinejad has several options at his disposal Photo: AP

How will Iran respond?

Iran may respond to strike on nuke sites by hitting oil tankers, targeting Israel

Dudi Cohen
Published: 07.01.08, 23:35 / Israel Opinion

The barrage of declarations and warnings issued by Tehran in recent days raises questions about the possible Iranian response to an attack on its nuclear sites. The Iranians appear not to address at all the possibility of preventing such strike, instead choosing to warn the world about the possible implications of an attack.


Some of the moves that may be adopted by Iran, including methods it has used in the past, or at least was accused of using, include the following:

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Hit-and-run attacks in the Gulf: During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the two states attempted to harm the oil exports of their rival. In this framework, the Iranian army utilized "hit-and-run" attacks on oil tankers and other ships in the Gulf. Experts say that the driving force behind this method was the Revolutionary Guard, the main arm of Iran's armed forces that is motivated by radical Islamic ideology.


This tactic was mostly based on speed boats armed with missiles. The Revolutionary Guard has warned in the past that it has volunteer suicide bombers that could wreak havoc in the Straight of Hormuz, the strategic gateway to the Persian Gulf.


Targeting American-Israeli interests: Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that Iran will attack American interests in the region should it be pushed into a corner. Iran's army declared that it possesses missiles that can sink "large ships" and other missiles that can hit targets beyond the Gulf – hinting at US bases in Qatar and Bahrain. However, military experts say that American missiles can intercept the Iranian missiles.


In addition, the Iranians also possess Shihab 3 missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers (roughly 1,200 miles) that could hit Israel too. The Revolutionary Guard's Commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, warned Saturday that Israel is within range of Iranian missiles and added that "Israel knows that should it strike Iran it will sustain a fateful blow." Addressing the possibility of an American strike, he said that without Israeli cooperation American threats of an Iran strike will not materialize.


Violence in Iraq: Washington has already blamed Iran for supporting gunmen in Iraq – a charge that Tehran has denied. Western diplomats noted that Iran could allow weapons to flow into Iraq and stir up additional problems for the US Army. Iran has historical ties with the Shiites in Iraq, due to the fact that some of its leaders were granted asylum there during Saddam Hussein's rule. However, commentators have noted that the level of Iranian control on Iraqi policy is unclear.


Undermining stability in Afghanistan: Iran claims that it wants a stable neighbor to its east, yet Western officials claim that Iranian weapons reached the hands of Taliban fighters, not directly perhaps but via drug and weapon smuggling gangs. The Shiite Iran strongly objects to the Taliban's zealous Sunni views, and a war almost broke out between the two countries during the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan. Despite this, commentators estimate that in case of a clash with the US, Iran may assist its archenemy as long as the result would harm the Americans.


Making use of regional allies: The Revolutionary Guard's commander warned Saturday that should Iran be hit, its friends in the world may attack Israel. He did not specifically name Hizbullah, but noted that the Shiites in southern Lebanon will not sit idly by in case Iran comes under attack. He estimated that Hamas fighters, who receive Iranian funding, may also respond, even though he did not specifically name the group.


Hostage-taking: The West has charged Iran with assisting and planning several abductions of Americans and other foreigners during the civil war in Lebanon. The deal worked out later included weapons sales to Iran during its war with Iraq in exchange for Iranian assistance in securing the release of hostages held by Lebanon terror groups. The vacuum left by the Syrian forces' withdrawal from Lebanon was largely filled by Iran, which supports Hizbullah. It is also possible that Tehran will encourage the group to abduct more IDF soldiers on Israel's northern border.


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