By CNN Wire Staff, from CNN website, February 3, 2012
Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- The supreme leader of Iran issued a blunt warning Friday that war would be detrimental to the United States -- and that Iran is ready to help anyone who confronts "cancerous" Israel.
"You see every now and then in this way they say that all options are on the table. That means even the option of war," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said during Friday prayers in Tehran. "This is how they make these threats against us.
"Well, these kinds of threats are detrimental to the U.S.," he said. "The war itself will be 10 times as detrimental to the U.S."
Khamenei's rhetoric is hardly new. But the timing of his comments could prove critical with nuclear talks around the corner.
Tensions between Iran and world powers have been ratcheted up in the aftermath of an alarming nuclear watchdog agency report in November that said Tehran was likely developing nuclear weapons.
The standoff grew more serious this week with renewed fears of an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran to take out its suspected nuclear weapons program.
Khamenei said Iran will support any nation or group that stands up against Israel.
"The Zionist regime is really the cancerous tumor of this region and it needs to be removed and will be removed," Khamenei said to a cheering crowd.
Panetta thinks Israel could attack He said Iran doesn't interfere in other nations but has aided militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah in conflicts with Israel in Gaza and Lebanon.
His comments came after stern comments Friday from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
"Today, unlike in the past, there is a broad global understanding that it is crucial to stop Iran becoming nuclearized and that no options should be taken off the table," he said.
Barak said allowing Iran to continue on its path will be far more complex and dangerous in blood and money than cutting it off now.
"Those who say in English, 'later,' may find later is too late," he said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he feared Israel could attack Iran sometime this spring in an effort to destroy its suspected nuclear weapons program, according to a senior administration official.
The official declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information.
The United States and its allies have warned that Iran is trying to make a nuclear weapon. Iran insists that its nuclear program is for civilian energy purposes.
A new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center said the United States needs to put more teeth into its threat to use military power against Iran.
The Washington think tank recommended in its report that Washington should undertake visible, credible military preparations to go along with more intense sanctions and diplomatic efforts.
The military activities could include naval deployments, military exercises and positioning supplies in the region.
To stop Iran's nuclear clock, the report said, the United States "needs to make clear that Iran faces a choice: it can either abandon its nuclear program through a negotiated arrangement or have its program destroyed militarily, by the United States."
The report also said the United States should give credibility to the Israeli military threat against Iran by selling Israel two to three KC-135 aerial refueling tankers and 200 GRU-31 bunker-buster munitions.
Former Sen. Chuck Robb, who co-chaired the task force that wrote the report, said the group advocates neither war nor a military strike at the moment, but believes the United States will only be effective if it takes credible steps to let Iran know it is serious.
Meanwhile, other "foreign affairs experts" are reminding the U.S. administration that in 1994, when faced with the threat of North Korea's acquiring nuclear weapons, the Clinton administration decided that an attack would only make the situation worse and declined.
Today, however, one of the main complicating factors is the existential threat to Israel publicly declared by the Iranian leader. It is neither the first, nor will it be the last such threat. And with Defense Secretary Panetta making sounds about a potential Israeli attack on Iran, (noises that are clearly dovetailed with a mounting diplomatic offensive against Iran) there can hardly be anyone in any world capital that is not wondering out loud about the possibility of a military conflict involving Iran, Israel and possibly the U.S., if not also drawing other countries into the melee.
The legitimacy of the state of Israel, the world "thought" (how politically naive!) was beyond dispute for the last half century or more. However, Israel is the target of the Iranian government and the rest of the world will have to decide whether or not it supports Israel's right to exist, not merely its right to defend itself.
Why is the world opinion not equally, or even more vociferously, challenging the right of the Palestinians to their own state, given the several Islamic nations in which they would be welcomed?
There are very high stakes in the potential of a military attack by forces of Israel and/or the U.S. against Iran, but anyone reading the current coverage, including the "expert" essays, would have to be moving toward an expectation of something erupting over the Iranian determination to develop nuclear weapons, in spite of their denials of that intent.
If that growing expectation does not jack up fuel prices in the rest of the world, it certainly jacks up the level of anxiety about the potential fall-out of such a war, in the current turbulent and chaotic context.