REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- A senior Iranian military commander seemed to warn Tuesday that Tehran would strike preemptively at any “threats” directed against the Islamic Republic.
“We will no more wait to see enemy action against us,” said Gen. Mohammed Hejazi, deputy head of the armed forces, according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency.
But the statement was somewhat ambiguous. The high-ranking commander didn’t detail any possible preemptive strategy but instead repeated Tehran’s oft-stated policy to retaliate massively if attacked.
“We will make use of all our means to protect our national interests and hit a retaliatory blow at them whenever we feel that enemies want to endanger our national interests,” Hejazi said.
He warned the “Zionist regime” -- the Iranian leadership's usual way of referring to Israel -- against any “foolish act” that could spark an Iranian reaction. The comments come as speculation has intensified about a possible Israeli or American strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Iran says its disputed nuclear research program is for peaceful purposes, such as energy generation and cancer treatment. The United States and some of its allies suspect the goal is to produce nuclear weapons.
Iran says it favors negotiation on the issue. Western governments also have backed talks, noting that a bombing strike could further inflame a volatile region while not permanently crippling Iran’s nuclear capabilities. But some fear Iran may simply be seeking to buy time while it advances even more toward development of an atomic bomb.
Meanwhile, Iran said Tuesday said that the country had begun “massive air defense drills” in the southern part of the country in a bid to “detect and repel” enemy air raids, Fars reported.
“Iran’s homemade air defense radar systems can easily detect cruise missiles and drones,” the news agency said, referring to two weapons in the U.S. arsenal.
-- Patrick J. McDonnell