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Iran held a large-scale military demonstration over the weekend, parading ballistic missiles and other weapons that were painted with the slogans, “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” according to regional reports.
The military parade was viewed as a show of force to Western nations ahead of Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s appearance at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
Rowhani’s trip to the United Nations has been described as a “peace tour,” and he is expected to strike a conciliatory note with America and could meet face-to-face with President Barack Obama.
However, Rowhani adopted a harder line over the weekend when he appeared at the demonstration to help rally the country with anti-Israel and anti-U.S. rhetoric.
"Today too, the armed forces of the Islamic Republic and its leadership will never launch any aggressive action in the region,” Rowhani was quoted as saying by Israel’s Arutz Sheva. “But they will always resist aggressors determinedly until victory.”
Iran’s military will act as a “factor of stability and peace in the region,” according to Rowhani.
“Down with U.S.A.” could be seen painted across the side of a military truck that drove down Iranian streets displaying Tehran’s latest missiles.
Another missile-toting truck was equipped with a sign that read, “Death to Israel,” and featured a picture of an Israeli flag engulfed in flames.
The military parade was held to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war. Rowhani praised the country’s military achievements during a speech to mark the occasion, according to China’s state-run Xinhua.
Iran unveiled at least 30 missiles capable of striking Israel during the parade.
“Iran paraded 30 missiles with a nominal range of 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles)—the first time it had displayed so many with the theoretical capacity to hit Israeli targets,” Arutz Sheva reported over the weekend.
These missiles could also strike U.S. military bases in the Gulf, according to the report.
Iranian military commanders continued their hardline rhetoric on Monday, when they announced another series of military drills scheduled to take place in November.
Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, commander of the Iranian Army Ground Force, said his forces would display “a number of new achievements” during the drills.
“The capabilities of armored and airborne units will be tested in the (upcoming) drills,” he said, according to Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency.
“The drills codenamed Qamar-e Bani Hashem will be conducted in an area covering 250,000 square kilometers (in three operational zones) of land in the Southeastern parts of the country,” Pourdastan said.
Iran claims to have successfully “test-fired different types of newly-developed missiles and torpedoes” in recent months and has “tested a large number of home-made weapons, tools and equipment, including submarines, military ships, artillery, choppers, aircrafts, UAVs, and air defense and electronic systems,” according to Fars.
Tehran also will unveil what it claims is a “home-made” warship in the coming months.
The destroyer is expected to set sail in Iran’s northern waters, according to Fars.
“The destroyer, Damavand, will join the Navy warships in Northern Iran (in the Caspian Sea) by the end of the current (Iranian) year (which ends on March 20),” Senior Iranian Army Commander Khordad Hakimi was quoted as saying on Monday.
Rowhani claimed on Monday that he would engage in talks with Western nations during his stay at the international forum, according to Reuters.
“Unfortunately in recent years the face of Iran, a great and civilized nation, has been presented in another way,” Rowhani said, according to Reuters. “I and my colleagues will take the opportunity to present the true face of Iran as a cultured and peace-loving country.”
Iran expert Emanuele Ottolenghi said that Rowhani's public comments are markedly different than Iran's domestic rhetoric.
"Someone did not get the memo in Tehran—what's with all those mega posters saying ‘Death to Israel'?" said Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation For Defense of Democracies (FDD). "If Iran's new president Hassan Rowhani truly wishes to turn the page, isn't it time for Iran to tone down the rhetoric against Israel as well?"