Iran has threatened to launch a missile blitz against the Gulf states and plunge the entire Middle East into war if America attacks its nuclear facilities.
Admiral Ali Shamkhani, a senior defence adviser to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned that Gulf states providing the US with military cooperation would be the key targets of a barrage of ballistic missiles.
Shamkhani told the US journal Defense News that missiles would be launched not only at US military bases but also at strategic targets such as oil refineries and power stations.
Qatar, Bahrain and Oman all host important US bases and British forces are based in all three countries. Any Iranian attack would be bound to draw in the other Gulf Cooperation Council states: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
The attacks on Arab states would be in addition to airstrikes on Israel, which have been threatened repeatedly. An Iranian foreign ministry official said: “The objective would be to overwhelm US missile defence systems with dozens and maybe hundreds of missiles fired simultaneously at specific targets.”
Shamkhani, a former Iranian defence minister, accused the Gulf states of “helping the US establish legitimacy for its anticipated aggression against Iran”.
Shamkhani is the head of Iran’s Centre for Strategic Studies, a think tank made up of former foreign, defence and interior ministers that advises the supreme leader.
Another Iranian official said to be familiar with the “retaliation plan” claimed it would be launched within an hour of a US attack and would be accompanied by increased support for terrorist groups. “The US will be as surprised with Iranian military capabilities as the Israelis were with Hezbollah in last summer’s war in Lebanon,” he said.
Iran claims its nuclear programme is designed to generate electricity. It has, however, failed to answer questions from the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, about elements of the programme that suggest it is developing nuclear weapons.
President Mahmoud Ahmad-inejad said last week it was too late to stop Iran’s nuclear programme. He likened his country to a cornered lion and warned America “not to play with the lion’s tail”.
President George W Bush is said to be determined to resolve the issue before he leaves office and there have been repeated suggestions that the US could attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.