IRAN ANNOUNCED missile tests yesterday and threatened to wipe Israel “off the face of the Earth” if the Jewish state attacked it, brandishing some of its starkest threats on the day Europe began enforcing an oil embargo and harsh new sanctions.
The European sanctions – including a ban on imports of Iranian oil by EU states and measures that make it difficult for other countries to trade with Iran – were enacted earlier this year but mainly came into effect yesterday.
They are designed to break Iran’s economy and force it to curb nuclear work that western countries say is aimed at producing an atomic weapon. It has been shown in recent months that sanctions have already had a significant effect on Iran’s economy.
Israel says it could attack Iran if diplomacy fails to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear aims.
The US also says military force is on the table as a last resort, but US officials have repeatedly encouraged the Israelis to be patient while new sanctions take effect. Washington said the EU’s oil ban might force Tehran to give ground at the next round of nuclear talks, scheduled for this week in Istanbul.
Announcing three days of missile tests in the coming week, Revolutionary Guards general Amir Ali Hajizadeh said the exercises should be seen as a message “that the Islamic Republic of Iran is resolute in standing up to . . . bullying, and will respond to any possible evil decisively and strongly”.
Any attack on Iran by Israel would be answered resolutely: “If they take any action, they will hand us an excuse to wipe them off the face of the Earth,” said Gen Hajizadeh, according to state news agency Irna.
The missile tests would target mock-ups of air bases in the region, he said, adding that its ability to strike US bases in the Gulf protected Iran from US support for Israel. “US bases in the region are within range of our missiles and weapons, and therefore they certainly will not co-operate with the regime [Israel].”
Iran has repeatedly unnerved oil markets by threatening reprisals if it were to be attacked or its trade disrupted. The threat against the Jewish state echoed words Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke in 2005, saying Israel “must be wiped off the page of time” – a phrase often translated as “wiped off the map” and cited by Israel to show how allowing Iran to get nuclear arms would be a threat to its existence. – (Reuters)