Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Najjar
Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Najjarphoto: file

In reaction to statements by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz last week that Israel would be forced to launch an attack on Iran to halt its development of weapons of mass destruction, Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar threatened a "very painful" response.

The Iranian Defense Minister declared that his nation would be willing to "use nuclear defense."

On Sunday, Najjar was quoted by Iranian state-controlled media as saying, "Our armed forces are at the height of their readiness and if anyone should want to undertake such a foolish job the response would be very painful." Najjar further said that Israel was "too weak to dare to attack" Iran, as he claimed was evident from Israeli actions in Lebanon and Gaza in recent years.

In 2006, the Iranian Defense Minister declared that his nation would be willing to "use nuclear defense" to confront "all kinds of threats."

In an interview published on Friday, Minister Mofaz said that Israel would have to act on its own, as international pressure has not been effective in preventing the Islamic Republic from developing its nuclear weapons program. According to Mofaz, the window of opportunity for such an attack is swiftly closing. One year ago, the minister was quoted as saying that if sanctions are ineffective after six months, then the military option would be unavoidable. 

Iran Signs Defense Pact With Iraq

It remains an open question as to what a potential Israeli strike on Iran would precipitate in the larger Arab-Israeli arena.

On Monday, Iran and Iraq signed a Memorandum of Understanding on bilateral defense cooperation. The agreement lays out the basis for an "expansion of defense cooperation between the two countries,"  according to Iran's official IRNA news agency. The agreement is expected to play a role in influencing Baghdad to refuse an American request that US troops be allowed to remain in Iraq past the end of 2008.

In addition to its defense pact with Iraq, Iran signed a similar Memorandum of Understanding with Syria in 2006. Iran and Syria cooperate in supplying and supporting the Hizbullah terrorist organization endeavoring to take over Lebanon, on Israel's northern border.

'Cynically Exploiting Strategic Matters'

On Sunday, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai criticized Minister Mofaz for his threatening statements regarding Iran.

Vilnai charged that Mofaz was "cynically exploiting the State of Israel's strategic matters" for internal political ends. As such, his statements were "extremely serious and absolutely inappropriate. An intelligent person would remain silent at this time and leave security matters to those responsible for them," Vilnai said.