Iran will target US bases in the Gulf should a war break out with Israel, a senior Iranian military official has said.
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a commander with Iran’s revolutionary guards, said on Sunday that US military bases in Qatar, Bahrain and Afghanistan are legitimate targets, because Israel would not attack the Islamic Republic without US involvement.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the US bases in the region as part of American soil and will definitely target them if a war breaks out," he was quoted as saying.
A spokesman for the US Department of Defence told Al Jazeera: "Inflammatory rhetoric of this sort is unhelpful."
"The United States stands ready to defend itself against any threat in the Middle East or elsewhere," Jim Gregory, a Department of Defence spokesman, told Al Jazeera by email.
The US Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, while Qatar and Afghanistan host large military bases and thousands of troops.
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"We see the United States and the Zionist regime [of Israel] alongside one another and we can by no means imagine that the Zionist regime would initiate a war [against Iran] without the US support."
Should Israel and Iran engage militarily, "nothing is predictable... and it will turn into World War III," Hajizadeh said, adding that some countries might enter the war in favor of or against Iran, likely in reference to the oil-rich Gulf states.
Hajizadeh’s statement, made during an interview with Iran's state sponsored Al-Alam television, is the latest salvo in a long-running war of words over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Iran says its nuclear programme is intended solely for peaceful purposes, while the West and Israel believe Tehran wants to develop weapons.
"Iran will not start any war but it could launch a pre-emptive attack if it was sure that the enemies are putting the final touches to attack it," Al-Alam TV said, paraphrasing the military commander.