The chief of Iran’s army vows to destroy Israel and expresses pride for Tehran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas

Ataollah SalehiAtaollah Salehi

By Yossi Lempkowicz

Iran’s army top commander declared that his forces will destroy Israel despite the recent nuclear deal aimed at reining in the country’s rogue behaviour, and that he backs Tehran’s support for terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

According to the Iranian Fars news agency, Ataollah Salehi said, “Israel only barks, no matter how much weapons are given to it, we are going to destroy them, we will promise this task will be done.”

He added, “We are glad that we are in the forefront of executing the Supreme leader’s order to destroy the Zionist regime””  Earlier this month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said via Twitter, “God willing, there will be nothing as Zionist regime by next 25 years.”

Salehi’s comments follow reports that Iran has unveiled new advanced military hardware and intends to violate international prohibitions on its construction of ballistic missiles, which could be used to carry a nuclear payload.

The army’s commander also expressed pride in Iran’s support for terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah that seek Israel’s destruction. He also said that Iran has been directly responsible for attacks on Israel.

They [Israel] have been hit by those supported by us [Iran],” such as Hezbollah and Hamas. He warned that “even though they [Israel] have not confronted us directly; if they confront us directly they will be destroyed.”

According to journalist and Middle East analyst Avi Isacharoff, ‘’Tehran’s belief that tens, or hundreds, of billions of dollars will flow into the country in the coming years as a result of sanctions relief has led to a decision to boost the cash flow to these terror organizations.’’

He wrote in The Times of Israel : “This support, for example, has enabled Hezbollah to obtain highly developed new armaments, including advanced technologies that many militaries around the world would envy. Al-Rai, a Kuwaiti newspaper, reported Saturday that Hezbollah has received all the advanced weaponry that Syria has obtained from the Russians. The report cited a security source involved in the fighting in Zabadani, on the Syria-Lebanon border, where Hezbollah is fighting the al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State, and other groups. It is evidently the growing Iranian financial support that is enabling the Lebanese Shiite militia to purchase advanced weapons, including ones that were hitherto outside of its reach.”

Western leaders have condemned Iran’s incendiary rhetoric and Tehran’s attitude towards Israel. Nonetheless, the July nuclear deal between the P5+1 world powers and Iran does not address these issues, nor Iran’s development of ballistic weaponry which could be aimed at Israel.

On a visit to Moscow on Monday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin told Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that Iran is looking to open a front against Israel on the Syrian border via Hezbollah, which is thought to have been responsible for explosives aimed at Israeli troops in the vicinity and attempted infiltrations on a number of occasions.

Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iran expert and associate fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, argued that Iran’s military has become emboldened by the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Tehran.

“Due to the extreme weakness shown by this administration, Iran’s military establishment neither fears nor respects the U.S. anymore,” Ghasseminejad said. “The U.S. faces a credibility problem in the region; the problem will be there as long as President Obama is in office,” he added.

Moreover, as part of the nuclear deal, Russia has confirmed its “preparedness to cooperate and improve Iran’s centrifuges to produce stable isotopes,” according to statements made by Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

He spoke after talks in Vienna with Sergey Kirienko, who heads Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation.

“Assistance to enhance the designing of our existing centrifuge machines in a way that they can produce stable isotopes is among the Russians’ undertakings (based on the July 14 nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers),” the Fars news agency  quoted Salehi saying.

“They are among the most powerful and pioneering countries in the world in this field, and they have announced their preparedness to cooperate and improve Iran’s centrifuges to produce stable isotopes.”

Critics of the nuclear accord have highlighted, among other flaws, that it grants Iran the right to conduct on-going R&D to improve its centrifuges, potentially enabling it enrich uranium more quickly toward a potential breakout to the bomb. The deal provides, for instance, that Iran will commence testing of the fast “IR-8 on single centrifuge machines and its intermediate cascades” as soon as the deal goes into effect, and will “commence testing of up to 30 IR-6 and IR-8 centrifuges after eight and a half years.”