Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon pays his respect at a military graveyard in Tel Aviv on April 22, when Israelis mark their independence day. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

Iran's envoy to the United Nations sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, as well as the Security Council, protesting recent remarks made by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who invoked the United States' dropping of atomic bombs on Japan during World War II when responding to a question of how to deal with Iran at a conference in Tel Aviv this month.

The Iranian letter, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency, said Yaalon's comments showed "the [Israeli] regime's aggressive nature" and was an indication of Israel's own extensive, covert nuclear arsenal, whose existence remains an open secret.

[How Israel blazed a trail for Iran's own nuclear weapons program.]

Here's an excerpt of what the Israeli defense minister said May 5 when asked about "dealing with a threat like Iran," as reported by Lobe Log, a blog that focuses on U.S.-Iran matters:

I can imagine some other steps that should be taken. Of course, we should be sure that we can look at the mirror after the decision or the operation. Of course, we should be sure it is a military necessity. We should consider cost and benefit, of course. But, at the end, we might take certain steps.

I do remember the story of President Truman was asked, How do [you] feel after deciding to launch the nuclear bombs [at] Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing at the end the fatalities of 200,000 casualties? And he said, When I heard from my officers that the alternative is a long war with Japan, with potential fatalities of a couple of millions, I saw it was a moral decision.

We are not there yet. But that [is] what I’m talking about. Certain steps in cases in which we feel like we don’t have the answer by surgical operations or something like that.

Tehran's reaction perhaps willfully misinterpreted Yaalon's couched response as a statement of Israeli national policy. Here's more from the letter delivered by Gholam Ali Khoshrou, Iran's U.N. ambassador:

[Yaalon's] impudent remarks have challenged the primary principles ruling the armed conflicts and the international humanitarian rights and weaken the international peace and security and therefore, the [U.N. Security Council] is expected to condemn these irresponsible remarks and clear threats of using nuclear bomb and massacre of civilians.

But it does appear a bit strange for a top official from a government so adamantly opposed to Iran's nuclear program to raise the question of its own nuclear options. Israel is suspected to have about 200 nuclear bombs and warheads, according to The Washington Post's Walter Pincus, who earlier charted the similarities between Israel's clandestine weapons program and Iran's mooted efforts to develop its own.

For years, the Israelis have complained about the Islamic republic's incendiary rhetoric, particularly that of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But the underlying reality remains that, of the two, only one country has a nuclear weapon, and that's not Iran.

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