Tensions in the Middle East show no sign of abating today as Iran issued warnings to neighboring Gulf states that they would face the wrath of Iranian military retaliation if US bases on their soils were used to support an attack on their nuclear facilities or infrastructure. Meanwhile, other nations urge caution, saying that great efforts to forge negotiations must be supported to avert war and the global instability that would result.
As The Guardian reports today:
At an international gathering of security officials and diplomats in Munich, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a western attack on Iran would be a "disaster" and that greater diplomatic efforts were needed.
"A military option will create a disaster in our region. So before that disaster, everybody must be serious in negotiations. We hope soon both sides will meet again but this time there will be a complete result," he said. [...]
His comments followed a formal speech by defence minister Ehud Barak on Thursday in which he warned that "later might be too late", as Iran was approaching a "zone of immunity" in which its nuclear facilities would be beyond the reach of airstrikes. On the same day, US defence secretary Leon Panetta was quoted as warning that an Israeli attack could come as early as April, May or June.
And Reuters reports on warnings coming out of Tehran:
In Tehran, the deputy head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards told the semi-official Fars news agency Iran would attack any country whose territory is used by "enemies" of the Islamic state to launch a military strike against its soil.
Washington and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the standoff. Iran has warned of firm retaliation if attacked, including targeting Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz shipping lane.
Qatar's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khalid Mohamed al-Attiyah, whose Gulf country is increasingly active in regional diplomacy, said an attack "is not a solution, and tightening the embargo on Iran will make the scenario worse. I believe we should have dialogue."
"I believe that with our allies and friend in the West we should open a serious dialogue with the Iranians to get out of this dilemma. This is what we feel in our region."
The major development in Israel today was the appointment of Amir Eshel to the post of commander of the Israeli Air Force, the military official who would, in the event of a strike against Iran, coordinate the attack and give the order for its execution. According to The Guardian report:
Eshel [...] told reporters last month: "We have the ability to hit very, very hard any adversary" and warned that a nuclear Iran would lead to proliferation across the Middle East.
And Haaretz reports:
Eshel [...] won out over Brig.-Gen. Yohanan Locker, who is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's military secretary and was the prime minister's preference. The lack of agreement between Netanyahu and Gantz had delayed the appointment.
Recently, Amir Eshel had voiced concerns over a nuclear-armed Iran, saying it could deter Israel from going to war against Tehran's guerilla allies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
Eshel echoed Israeli government leaders who argue that Iran, which denies wrongdoing but rejects international censure over its secretive projects, could create a "global nuclear jungle" and fuel arms races in an already volatile Middle East.
Eshel made clear that Israel - widely reputed to have the region's only atomic arsenal - worries that Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia as well as Palestinian Hamas Islamists who rule Gaza could one day find reassurance in an Iranian bomb.