Iran’s top leader said Monday that anyone who fires one missile at his country “will be hit by 10” in response, but dismissed fears of war as “propaganda” by the West.
Tensions have soared since the US withdrew from the landmark 2015 nuclear accord, and vowed to restore sanctions unless Iran meets a list of strict demands.
In a speech, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also said he had ordered atomic authorities to increase the country’s nuclear enrichment capacity. The increase he detailed in his speech would not exceed limits set by the nuclear accord, which European countries have said they hope to salvage.
The agreement reached by the Obama administration, along with Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and Iran, lifted international sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear activities.
Khamenei’s comments came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Khamenei lashed out at Israel, calling the Jewish state the “cancerous tumor” of the region that must be “removed and eradicated.”
Netanyahu said that Iran would be the first and only subject on the agenda of his trip to Europe.
Intent on winning support for amending the nuclear deal with Iran and getting Iranian troops out of Syria, the prime minister will also meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May, both of whose countries are signatories to the deal.
Netanyahu warned Merkel that Iran’s presence in Syria should also worry Germany, given that Shiite militias there were intent on converting Sunni Muslims to their creed, with the result that a “new religious war” would break out in the Middle East and send further waves of refugees to Europe.
Israel fears that as the Syrian civil war winds down, Iran, whose forces and Shiite proxies have backed President Bashar Assad, will turn its focus to Israel.
The Israeli Air Force is believed to have carried out a number of airstrikes on Iranian positions in Syria. Last month, the bitter enemies openly clashed when Iran fired dozens of rockets at Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, and Israel responded by striking several Iranian targets in Syria.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.