A senior Iranian cleric warned on Saturday that the Islamic Republic would fire missiles at Tel Aviv if attacked, shortly after Iran’s military announced it would begin large-scale drills on Sunday to help protect its nuclear facilities.
“If the enemy should want to test its bad luck in Iran, before the dust from its missiles settles in this country, Iran’s ballistic missiles would land in the heart of Tel Aviv,” said cleric Mojtaba Zolnour, the IRNA news agency reported.
Zalnour is a deputy of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative in the Revolutionary Guards, which will be staging the defence drills together with the regular armed forces.
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the row over Iranian nuclear work that the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.
Iran, which insists its nuclear program is solely to generate electricity, has also threatened in the past to hit back at Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf if it is attacked.
The war games are due to last five days, Iranian media quoted Brigadier General Ahmad Mighani as saying.
The officer also suggested Iran could itself produce an advanced missile defense system that Russia has so far failed to deliver to the Islamic Republic and which Washington and Israel do not want Tehran to have.
The official IRNA news agency said the exercises would take place in western Iran and that they would be “huge.”
Iran believes Russia’s delay in supplying high-grade S-300 missiles was due to pressure by Israel, not technical problems as cited by Moscow, Mighani said.
“We are hopeful the Russians will ignore the pressure of the Zionist lobby,” Fars News Agency quoted him as saying on Saturday. Iran refers to Israel as the “Zionist regime.”
The military maneuvers will involve both the elite Revolutionary Guards and the regular armed forces against a hypothetical enemy, Iranian media reported.
“This week’s air defense maneuvers will be held with the intention of protecting the country’s nuclear facilities,” Mighani said, Fars reported. State television said the defense drills would “ensure better protection” for these facilities.
The war games were announced a day after senior officials from six world powers said they were disappointed Iran had not accepted proposals intended to delay its potential to make nuclear weapons, and urged Tehran to reconsider.
The United States, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France met after U.S. President Barack Obama warned there could be a package of sanctions against Iran within weeks.
Iran often holds defense exercises and announces advances in military equipment in order to show its readiness to counter any threats over its disputed nuclear program.
Iranian officials have over the last few weeks voiced growing frustration at Russia’s failure to deliver the S-300.
Moscow, which is under Western pressure to distance itself from Iran over the nuclear dispute, has not followed through on proposals to supply the missiles to the country.
“They have declared technical problems as the underlying reason for this delay, but we think it has been due to the Zionists’ pressure,” Mighani said, according to Fars.
“In various manoeuvres, new and modern missile networks will be used and evaluated, including the advanced S-300 missiles, for which the production capability exists in Iran,” IRNA quoted him as saying, without elaborating.
A senior lawmaker, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, earlier this month also said Iran would be able to produce the S-300 system itself, appearing to refer to missiles with similar capabilities.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Russia last month for failing to provide the arms to Iran.
The truck-mounted S-300PMU1, known in the West as the SA-20, can shoot down cruise missiles and aircraft. It can fire at targets up to 150 km away.