Hezbollah Warns US Of Retaliation If Israel Strikes Iran

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(Reuters) - Iran could strike U.S. bases in the Middle East in response to any Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities, the leader of Lebanon's Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah said Monday.

"A decision has been taken to respond and the response will be very great," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview with the Beirut-based Al Mayadeen television.

"The response will not be just inside the Israeli entity; American bases in the whole region could be Iranian targets," he said, saying he had information from Iranian officials. "If Israel targets Iran, America bears responsibility."

But Nasrallah noted there were divisions in Israel over attacking Iran's nuclear facilities, which the West says could be part of a nuclear weapons program, a charge which Tehran denies.

"Personally I do not expect the Israeli enemy -- at least in the coming months or foreseeable future -- to attack the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials played down a newspaper report on Monday that accused Washington of secretly negotiating with Tehran to keep the United States out of a future Israel-Iran war.

Israel's most widely read newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, said Washington had approached Tehran through two unidentified European countries to convey the message that the United States would not be dragged into hostilities if Israel attacked Iran over its nuclear program.

The paper said the United States told Iran it expected Tehran in return to refrain from retaliating against U.S. interests, including its military in the Gulf. The report did not disclose any source for its information.

An Israeli official, who asked not to be identified, described the report as illogical.

"It doesn't make sense," the official said. "There would be no need to make such a promise to the Iranians because they realize the last thing they need is to attack U.S. targets and draw massive U.S. bombing raids."

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment over the Israeli newspaper story, which appeared during the Labor Day holiday.

President Barack Obama is fighting accusations from his Republican challenger Mitt Romney that he is lax in support for Israel.

The Obama administration says it is strongly committed to Israel's security and to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Sunday: "I can tell you that there is absolutely no daylight between the United States and Israel when it comes to the necessity of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said he still believed Obama's assurances that Washington was prepared to use force if needed to prevent Iran from developing a bomb.

"I don't know what kind of messages Yedioth Ahronoth heard," Meridor said. "But I think the Iranians understand ... that if they cross a line towards a bomb, they could encounter very strong resistance, including all the options that are on the table - as the American president has said."

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