Fighting Words

Iranian defense minister threatens to destroy Israel
Ahmad Vahidi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad AP

Ahmad Vahidi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad AP


Iran’s defense minister said on Thursday that the regime’s forces are now capable of destroying Israel and fulfilling its president’s pledge to wipe the country off the map.

Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, the defense chief, dismissed Israeli threats to attack Iran’s nuclear sites as a “bluff” during a meeting with reporters.

“The defense capability of the Islamic Iran against threats by the Zionist regime [Israel] has been developed to an extent that will wipe the [Israeli] regime off the scene,” Vahidi was quoted as saying during a visit to a Tehran mosque Sept. 19, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Vahidi said Iran would display new military equipment in the coming week including armored vehicles and naval and air weapons.

Vahidi’s comments echo those made in 2005 by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said in a speech that Israel “must be wiped off the map.”

The comments by the Iranian defense minister come as tensions remain high over a possible Israeli preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

U.S. and international military forces have held large-scale naval exercises in the Persian Gulf that practice clearing mines from the Gulf.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps announced recently that they plan to hold large-scale military exercises near Tehran together with the Iranian military. The maneuvers are set to begin Oct. 11.

The Tehran-based FARS news agency reported Thursday that Israel conducted an exercise in June 2008 with 100 F-16 and F-15 jets over the Mediterranean that was viewed as practice for a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Iran has threatened to target Israel in response to an Israeli strike and also to target 32 U.S. military bases in the region. Tehran also has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The U.S. military currently has two aircraft carrier strike groups near Iran and a Marine Corps strike group in the region.

Iran announced Sept. 9 that it plans to show off a new advance cruise missile with a range of 1,242 miles.

“The Meshkat cruise missile, which God willing, will be unveiled soon, has a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) and in fact is the long arm of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s armed forces,” Deputy Defense Minister and head of the ministry’s Aerospace Organization Mehdi Farahi told Fars news agency.

The new system would be part of other cruise missiles Iran has such as the Zafar, Nasir, Noor, Qadir, and Ghadir, Farahi said.

“So far, we have 14 types of cruise missiles either built or being developed and, God willing, the two cruise missiles of Ra’d and Meshkat will be unveiled soon,” Farahi said, adding that the missile can be fired from land, sea, or air.

Iran also has several types of medium-range missiles called Shehab, based on the North Korean Nodong missile.

“We are no longer concerned about quantity and have turned our attention to quality production and issues such as increasing accuracy, radar evading systems, tactical issues, and durability,” Farahi said of Iran’s missiles.

In a related development, an Iranian nuclear official said this week that Tehran has been supplying false information to foreign intelligence services.

Fereydun Abbasi, head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told the Arabic newspaper Al-Hyat Sept. 21 that the disinformation was supplied to Britain’s MI-6.

“Sometimes we gave the wrong information to protect our nuclear centers and our achievement,” Abbasi was quoted as saying. “Misleading foreign espionage apparatuses is inevitable.”

“Sometimes we show weaknesses which we do not possess and other times we claim to have powers which we do not have,” he said.

The comments raise questions about whether the U.S. intelligence community was fed false information about Iran’s nuclear program that influenced the conclusion of a controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that stated Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

The International Atomic Energy Agency stated in a recent report that it has obtained evidence that Iran’s nuclear arms work continued after 2003.

U.S. intelligence agencies, however, continued to insist the 2007 NIE is accurate, despite widespread criticism in Congress of the estimate.

Iran in recent days has boasted of several new weapons systems, including new air defense missiles

On Sept. 16, Iranian state-run press announced the production of a new unmanned aerial vehicle, the Shahed-129, which is capable of 24-hour combat and reconnaissance missions. The drone is said to be equipped with Sadid missiles that can hit targets from long distances.

IRGC Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said on state media that the “Shahed 129 drone presents the IRGC’s latest advancement in this field. With its 24-hour-long non-stop flight capability, the drone can accomplish good missions in reconnaissance and combat fields.”

Iran’s government also announced last week that the Navy had launched an overhauled Russian submarine and a new destroyer from the naval port at Bandar Abbas.