Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on the Iranian armed forces to boost their capabilities in order to “scare off” the enemy.
“Increase your power as much as you can, because your power scares off the enemy and forces it to retreat,” Khamenei said Sunday at a graduation for naval cadets, according to the Reuters news agency.
He also urged Iranians to continue to stand up to the United States, which has worked to increase pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program and support for armed groups in the Middle East.
“Iran and the Iranian nation have resisted America and proven that, if a nation is not afraid of threats by bullies and relies on its own capabilities, it can force the superpowers to retreat and defeat them,” he was quoted saying.
The remarks come days after Khamenei lashed out at the US and Israel for leading a “propaganda war” against Iran, as well as an “all-inclusive economic war.”
Last month, a first round of American sanctions on Iran took effect in accordance with US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal in May from the international accord meant to limit the Iranian nuclear program. Trump criticized the 2015 accord for not sufficiently curbing Iran’s nuclear efforts or addressing its missile program and backing of regional terror groups and militias.
Despite his frequently hawkish rhetoric toward Iran, Trump has kept open the possibility of talks and last week said it was possible he could meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly later this month.
Rouhani on Saturday appeared to dismiss such a meeting, mocking the US for allegedly sending Iran requests “every day” to hold negotiations.
Trump is due to lead a September 26 meeting of heads of state of the UN Security Council, with the goal of ramping up pressure on Tehran over its alleged violations of council resolutions.
With the United States now holding the presidency of the Security Council, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday said the aim was to put further pressure on Tehran.
Washington has sought to build up international pressure on Iran after reimposing tough, unilateral sanctions on August 7 and setting a November 5 deadline for halting Iran’s oil exports.
Iran’s economy has been battered as countries wrap up trade ties in fear of violating the US sanctions, which Washington said would be strictly imposed.
Agencies contributed to this report.