A senior Iranian commander said Monday that Israel does not have the ability to strike Iran’s nuclear or military bases without US approval and boasted that any Israeli aggression will be met with a powerful response that can accurately target the infrastructure used for the attack.
Gholamali Rashid, chief of the Iranian armed forces central command headquarters, made the remarks as Iran began a large military exercise.
Rashid asserted that Israel is not able to follow through on any threat to Iran’s nuclear and military facilities without “the green light and support of the United States,” local media reported.
He said that should any such threat by Israel be acted upon, the response would be “a crushing attack on all bases, centers, paths and space used to carry out the aggression without delay,” the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Rashid as saying.
Israel has said it will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons and that it reserves the right to act alone, without the support of other nations, against what it sees as an existential threat. Earlier this month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he notified US officials that he had instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for a strike against Iran.
A senior US official also said that Israeli and American military leaders are set to discuss possible military drills to practice destroying Iranian nuclear facilities in a potential worst-case scenario if nuclear talks fail.
— Reza H. Akbari (@rezahakbari) July 5, 2016
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard staged the major military exercise across the country’s south amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, state TV reported.
The Guard’s aerospace division, ground troops and naval forces joined in the five-day drill, the report said, with maritime forces set to maneuver in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the narrow gateway for 20% of the world’s traded oil.
Earlier Monday, an unnamed Iranian official warned Israel against any “acts of mischief” while talks continue in Vienna to save Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the Mehr news reported.
The official said that should Israel take steps to pressure Iran into giving in to Western nations’ demands at the negotiating table, the result would be counterproductive, impacting relations with the US and having a “negative and deterrent effect on Iran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
The European-sponsored talks aim to rescue the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has unraveled since the US pulled out. The Islamic Republic publicly stepped up its nuclear projects after the US withdrawal from the deal in 2018, under then-president Donald Trump.
Western powers have reported some progress in the talks, though European diplomats warned at the end of last week that they were “rapidly reaching the end of the road.”
In a blow to European mediators, Iran requested a new pause in the talks in Vienna. The talks had just resumed in late November after a five-month break following the election of a new hardline government in Iran.
Underlying Western concerns are fears that Iran will soon have made enough progress that the accord — under which it was promised economic relief in return for drastic curbs on its nuclear work — will be obsolete.
Israel has reportedly approved a budget of some NIS 5 billion ($1.5 billion) to be used to prepare the military for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear program. It includes funds for various types of aircraft, intelligence-gathering drones and unique armaments needed for such an attack, which would have to target heavily fortified underground sites.