Iran on Saturday warned the West of the “serious consequences” of launching any attack against the Islamic republic after showing off a new longer-range missile in public for the first time.
“Military aggression against Iran is no longer a case of ‘you hit and you run away,’” said supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “Anyone who launches an aggression will seriously suffer the consequences of this aggression.”
His comments, broadcast on state television, were the first such intervention by Iran’s undisputed number one since French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned the world last week to brace for war against Tehran.
Iran earlier showed off its military prowess at the annual military parade to mark the start of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, taunting its arch enemy Israel with a host of slogans calling for the destruction of the Jewish state.
A longer range missile labelled Ghadr-1 (Power) – which had been said to be in development by Western experts – was shown at the parade for the first time in public.
The official announcer at the parade told reporters that the weapon had a range of 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles), sufficient to put US bases in the Middle East and Iran’s arch enemy Israel within reach.
The Ghadr missile, which has a “baby bottle” style nose for extra aerodynamic efficiency, is seen as an improved version of Iran’s existing longer-range Shahab series, which was also paraded.
Officials have said in the past that the Shahab-3 could reach 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles), but the announcer said it had a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) range.
The head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Jaafari, echoed Khamenei’s message: “My message to the enemy is that they will regret it (an attack). Do not do it.”
The parade came amid growing tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme, which the United States alleges is cover for a nuclear weapons drive but which Tehran insists is aimed solely at producing electricity.
Khamenei however brushed off the Western warnings of conflict, saying “they talk like an illiterate person who is showing their biceps and fists against a learned person.”
“The people and the officials have never been afraid of the threats and have increased their preparation,” he added.
The parade was marked by a litany of slogans calling for “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” Western military attaches, apparently warned of this in advance, boycotted the rally for the second year running.
“Israel should be eliminated” and “No Iranian Muslim, no Muslim recognises Israel,” were among the slogans borne on the back of military vehicles, quoting the words of Iran’s revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
“Israel has to be wiped off the map,” read another Khomeini quote which aroused worldwide controversy when it was repeated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.
Iran’s military, especially its air force, has been hit by the US trade embargo, and General Jaafari admitted that the Islamic republic would need to outsmart its enemies using means other than technology.
“Their material capabilities are better than us, everyone knows it and we admit it. We are responding to technology not with technology but with special methods and tactics,” he told reporters.
Officials said that only weapons built by Iran were shown at the parade, in a bid to emphasise the country’s self-sufficiency in military technology.
The full panoply of Iran’s armed forces were on display, with thousands of goose-stepping members of the regular army and the Revolutionary Guards saluting Ahmadinejad and top military leaders in a march-past.
The United States and its ally Israel have never ruled out using military action against Iran for its defiance in the nuclear standoff.
Iran has said it will never initiate an attack, but has warned of striking US bases in the Arabian peninsula, Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as Israel itself – as a response to any aggression.