Iran’s president threatened on Tuesday to flatten Tel Aviv and Haifa, as Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, and a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Islamic Republic the modern-day equivalent of Nazi Germany.
The comments by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi came as the country marked its annual Army Day with fighter jets and helicopters flying overhead in Tehran, and Iranian submarines sailing across its waters during a ceremony carried live by state television.
The day celebrates Iran’s regular military, not its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, whose expeditionary forces operate across the wider Mideast and aid Iranian-allied terror groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The Guard also routinely has tense encounters with the US Navy.
Speaking at the ceremony, Raisi threatened Israel, which is suspected of carrying out a series of attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear and military sites since the collapse of its deal with world powers.
“Enemies, particularly the Zionist regime, has receive the message that any tiny action against (our) country will prompt a harsh answer from the armed forces, which will accompany the destruction of Haifa and Tel Aviv,” Raisi said.
Raisi also reiterated a demand for the US to leave the Mideast. American policy since the Carter administration has viewed protecting the Persian Gulf region as crucial to securing global energy supplies. A fifth of the world’s supply of oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf.
While not specifically naming Saudi Arabia, Raisi did offer an olive branch in his remarks as Tehran seeks a détente with the kingdom.
“The hand of our armed forces warmly shakes the hand of the regional nations that intend to create security in the region,” the president said.
In March, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies after seven years of tensions, a diplomatic agreement reached in China. In the time since, Saudi Arabia also has been involved in a prisoner swap with Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, with hopes such a deal could see an end to that country’s years-long proxy war.
Speaking at a Yad Vashem national ceremony to mark the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday evening, Netanyahu likened today’s Iran to Nazi Germany as an entity currently representing an existential threat to the Jewish people, reprising a theme from his previous speeches for the same occasion.
Netanyahu said that the calls to exterminate the Jewish people have not stopped, and today come from Iran. He stressed that past victories do not guarantee future wins, saying Israel must be able to “defend itself by itself against any enemy, any threat.”
Among those in the audience at Yad Vashem was Reza Pahlavi, the son of the Western-backed Iranian ruler overthrown in the Islamic Revolution, who is in Israel for a visit.
Residing in the US, he has called for a peaceful revolution that would replace clerical rule with a parliamentary monarchy, enshrine human rights and modernize its state-run economy.
Israel and Iran maintained close relations — particularly on energy and security — during the reign of shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was overthrown in a popular 1979 uprising led by Islamist clerics.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is one of the most solemn dates on the Israeli calendar.
The country grinds to a halt for two minutes for a siren to commemorate the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide.
Survivors typically attend remembrance ceremonies where they share their stories, and some participate in memorial marches at former concentration camps in Europe.