By: STUART WINER, Times of Israel—
Two top Iranian generals on Thursday taunted the United States, saying the much-discussed military option to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities is “ridiculous,” that Washington knows it can’t be done, and that their country “welcomes war with the US.”
The saber rattling came as Western powers prepared to sit down for another round of negotiations with Iran to reach an agreement on putting curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, said in an interview on state-run television that a battle with the US would only serve to highlight Iran’s strengths.
“We welcome war with the US as we do believe that it will be the scene for our success to display the real potentials of our power,” he said, according to a report by the semi-official Fars news agency. “We have prepared ourselves for the most dangerous scenarios and this is no big deal.”
Salami threatened that Iran would strike any airbase used as a launch-pad for a strike on his country.
“We warn their pilots that their first flight [to attack Iran] will be their last one and no one will be allowed to go back safe and sound,” he warned.
The commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, gave a similarly belligerent warning during a ceremony in the city of Semnan, in the north of the country. Jafari reasoned that if the West really thought it could attack Iran at will, it would have done so already; instead world powers “kneel” before Iranian might, he boasted.
“The military option that the Westerners speak of constantly is ridiculous and they know that if the military option could have produced any result, they would have already used it many times, and today they have shifted their focus to other types of threats and to the soft war front,” Jafri said.
“Today, the Islamic Iran’s pride and might has made the world’s biggest materialistic and military powers kneel down before the Islamic Republic,” he proclaimed.
Iranian officials have recently ramped up their war of rhetoric in what local media said is a response to threats by US officials to bomb their country.
Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei bragged Wednesday that the US “can’t do a damn thing” to harm his country’s nuclear facilities.
Although Iranian media reports have not made clear to which US officials they have been referring, last month The Washington Post reported that Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called for a limited military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities similar to the four-day bombing campaign of Operation Desert Fox in 1998 against Iraq, over Saddam’s failure to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions.
US Secretary of State John Kerry also said that the US could still strike at Iran, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 aired this week.
Negotiations between Iran and six world powers — the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — were scheduled to resume on May 12 in Vienna, the European Union and Tehran said earlier this week. The political leaders of the other world powers involved in the negotiations are to join the talks on May 15.
Iran and the world powers want to turn a framework accord reached in Switzerland on April 2 into a full agreement by June 30.
Following a marathon of negotiations in Switzerland, Iran agreed on April 2 to what US President Barack Obama called a “historic understanding… which, if fully implemented, will prevent (Iran) from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Under the agreed parameters, Iran, which denies seeking the atomic bomb, is set to scale down its nuclear program for 10 to 15 years or more, and allow closer UN inspections.
In return, the United States and five other major powers committed to lift certain sanctions that have caused the Islamic Republic major economic pain by strangling its oil exports and financial system.
However, Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have harshly criticized the framework agreement, saying it leaves Iran with the ability to develop nuclear weapons in the future.
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.