REPORTING FROM TEHRAN AND BEIRUT-- Iran is on "full alert" and ready to retaliate for any strike against the Islamic Republic, Iranian military officials warned Wednesday amid Israeli media speculation of plans for an attack.
"We consider any threat -- even those with low probability and distant -- as a definite threat," said Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, the Iranian armed forces' chief of staff, according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency. "We are ready to punish them."
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomatic efforts fail to resolve the dispute surrounding Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran insists it is pursuing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. U.S. and Israeli officials suspect the Iranians are seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
The United States "will suffer serious damages should there be a military attack by the Zionist regime against Iran," the Iranian chief of staff warned.
Iran now has the capability to hit all U.S. vessels and bases in the region, Fars reported.
The International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to release an updated study next week on the nuclear efforts of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government. Some reports have indicated that the agency’s study, while not definitive, will bolster the case that Iran is pursuing a weapons program.
-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut
Photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, greets lawmakers at the parliament in Tehran on Tuesday. Credit: Abedin Taherkenareh / European Pressphoto Agency