TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A senior commander in Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard warned that Iran will target U.S. bases in the region in the event of war with Israel, raising the prospect of a broader conflict that would force other countries to get involved, Iranian state television reported Sunday.
The comments by Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Guard's aerospace division, came amid tension over Iran's nuclear program and Israel's suggestion that it might unilaterally strike Iranian nuclear facilities to scuttle what the U.S. and its allies believe are efforts to build a bomb.
Hajizadeh said no Israeli attack can happen without the support of its most important ally, the United States, making all U.S. military bases a legitimate target.
"For this reason, we will enter a confrontation with both parties and will definitely be at war with American bases should a war break out," Hajizadeh said in remarks that were posted on the website of Iran's state Al-Alam TV. U.S. facilities in Bahrain, Qatar and Afghanistan would be targeted, he said.
"There will be no neutral country in the region," Hajizadeh said. "To us, these bases are equal to U.S. soil."
The U.S. Fifth fleet is based in Bahrain and the U.S. has a heavy military presence in Afghanistan.
The Iranian warning appears an attempt to reinforce the potential wider consequences of an attack by Israel. The message is not only intended for Washington, but to its Gulf Arab allies fearful of a regional conflict that could disrupt oil shipment and cripple business hubs in places such as Dubai and Qatar.
It also comes during a major show of naval power in the Gulf by U.S.-led forces taking part in military exercises, including mine-sweeping drills. The U.S. Navy claims the maneuvers are not directly aimed at Iran, but the West and its regional allies have made clear they would react against attempts by Tehran to carry out threats to try to close critical Gulf oil shipping lanes.
in retaliation for tighter sanctions.