Says Iran response will see 'collapse' of Iron Dome defenses

Iran’s president threatens swift demise for Israel should it attack his country

Raisi, set to visit Syria amid detente with Saudis, says shifting regional alliances, along with ‘unprecedented’ political situation in Israel, have made Jewish state vulnerable

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks with the Lebanese pro-Hezbollah news outlet Al Mayadeen in an interview aired May 2, 2023 (screenshot)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks with the Lebanese pro-Hezbollah news outlet Al Mayadeen in an interview aired May 2, 2023 (screenshot)

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has warned that should Israel launch a direct military strike on his country, it would be overwhelmed by the immediate response and destroyed.

“Iran’s power today is within the country, and Iran’s power in the region is of an unmistakable magnitude,” said Raisi in an interview with Lebanon’s pro-Hezbollah Al Mayadeen network, aired Tuesday.

“The first blunder and step made by the Zionist entity will be its last, and there will no longer be this thing called the Zionist entity to even take another step,” he added. “We have said and announced this in various forums, and they know very well that we are serious about this view, this step, and this decision.”

Raisi is set to visit Damascus on Wednesday at the official invitation of the Syrian president against the backdrop of a rapprochement between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, and increased Arab engagement with Damascus.

In Tuesday’s interview, the Iranian president cited his country’s warming ties with Saudi Arabia, a setback to Jerusalem’s own ongoing efforts to forge diplomatic relations with Riyadh, as a source of “frustration” and “rage” for Israel, linking it to what he said was a broader regional shift against Israel.

“Today, the circumstances are pivoting in favor of the Resistance and against the Zionist entity,” said Raisi. “Day after day, the Zionist entity is heading toward its demise,” he added, noting the “unprecedented” political situation in Israel, a seeming allusion to the deep societal rift surrounding the government’s contentious plans to neuter the judiciary.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in late March axed Defense Minister Yaov Gallant, who had warned of the security repercussions of following through with the judicial overhaul plan. The dismissal triggered mass protests and a general strike, prompting Netanyahu to freeze the overhaul and eventually reinstate Gallant, whose stark predictions had echoed those of other leaders of the defense establishment.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center and IDF chief Herzi Halevy meeting in Tel Aviv on May 2, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Raisi cited the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in stating that “the circumstances today have greatly changed.”

“I want to say clearly that the current conditions in the new world order are in favor of the Resistance and against the Zionist entity,” he said. “The threats made by the Zionist entity are sometimes empty, and they know it.

“The evidence for that is that they cannot confront the resistance youth in Palestine and the region,” added Raisi. “So how does it make threats about attacking Iran? This is farcical talk that no one in the world believes or takes seriously.”

Israel has vowed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and has repeatedly said it could launch a military campaign to prevent what it sees as an existential threat. Seemingly spurred by Iran’s enrichment of uranium to unprecedented levels, Netanyahu in recent weeks reportedly held a series of secret meetings with top military officials aimed at upping preparations for a possible confrontation with Tehran.

While Israel has been linked to numerous acts of sabotage against Iran’s nuclear program, as well as assassinations of senior figures and strikes against the Islamic Republic’s interests in Syria and Lebanon, it has stopped short of launching a direct strike on its nuclear facilities.

Iran often threatens to raze Israeli cities in response to any attack on its territory.

A student looks at Iran’s domestically built centrifuges in an exhibition of the country’s nuclear achievements, in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran’s Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah is believed to have over 100,000 missiles that it has threatened to use against Israel, as the terror group has done in past conflicts with the IDF. Most of the country, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, is thought to be within the range of many of these projectiles.

The Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups in the Gaza Strip, which receive significant support from Tehran, also possess significant stockpiles of rockets that they periodically fire into Israeli territory. Military officials say they too could join the fray should Israel attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

In his Tuesday interview, Raisi appeared to allude to these arsenals, stating that the initial Iranian response to an Israeli attack would cause the “collapse” of the Jewish state’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Also underscoring that threat was a visit to the Israel-Lebanon border last week by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, center, waves as he stands with Hezbollah members and Lebanese lawmakers with the Israeli side of the border in the background, during a visit to the village of Maroun el-Rass on the Lebanon-Israel border, south Lebanon, April 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Raisi’s visit to Damascus will be the first by an Iranian president since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011.

The Islamic Republic finances, arms, and commands a number of Syrian and foreign militia groups fighting alongside the Assad regime’s regular armed forces, chief among them Hezbollah.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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