US officer warns Israel not to hit Iran

By Kim Sengupta

An Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear installations would destabilise the region and open a new battlefront which could have a damaging effect on Iraq and Afghanistan, a senior American army commander said yesterday.

In a highly unusual statement on the issue, the officer at the heart of US military policy-making, who requested anonymity, said a diplomatic solution was imperative to solve the crisis.

The commander said that there was "a lot of rhetoric" over Israel's repeated threats of air strikes to stop Iran developing a nuclear arsenal. But he said that an exercise by more than 100 Israeli warplanes above the Mediterranean in June showed the Israelis were practising for a possible offensive.

"But it would not be the right thing to do, it will open up another front and this is not going to help the situation in the region, Iraq or Afghanistan," said the officer. "A diplomatic solution is the only logical answer."

But the commander described Iran as having a "malign presence" in the area in supplying conventional weapons into Iraq. He said that according to intelligence received by the US, "front companies" were being used to pass arms and explosives to insurgents within Iraq.

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