The threats keep coming from the leaders of Iran.
Iran said it could defeat any American military action over its controversial nuclear drive, in one of the Islamic regime’s boldest challenges yet to the United States.
“You can start a war but it won’t be you who finishes it,” said General Yahya Rahim Safavi, the head of the Revolutionary Guards and among the regime’s most powerful figures.
“The Americans know better than anyone that their troops in the region and in Iraq are vulnerable. I would advise them not to commit such a strategic error,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a pro-Palestinian conference in Tehran.
The United States accuses Iran of using an atomic energy drive as a mask for weapons development. Last weekend US news reports said President George W. Bush’s administration was refining plans for preventive strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“I would advise them to first get out of their quagmire in Iraq before getting into an even bigger one,” General Safavi said with a grin.
“We have American forces in the region under total surveillance. For the past two years, we have been ready for any scenario, whether sanctions or an attack.”
And Iran threatened, again, to destroy Israel:
TEHRAN, Iran — The president of Iran again lashed out at Israel on Friday and said it was “heading toward annihilation,” just days after Tehran raised fears about its nuclear activities by saying it successfully enriched uranium for the first time.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a “permanent threat” to the Middle East that will “soon” be liberated. He also appeared to again question whether the Holocaust really happened.
“Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation,” Ahmadinejad said at the opening of a conference in support of the Palestinians. “The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm.”
The head of Israel’s National Security Council reacts:
Giora Eiland told Israel Radio that Iran was trying to create an inaccurate impression of inevitability about its nuclear program.
“True, they somehow upgraded their ability and have achieved new abilities of research and development in uranium enrichment. But between that stage and having the commercial ability to produce uranium in amounts needed for a bomb, and between this ability and creating a system of real weapons, there is a gap of technology and time,” he said.
John Podhoretz offers his advice:
There is one, and only one, advantage to this terrifyingly difficult situation: It may allow the partisan stalemate on foreign policy to be broken. President Bush and Howard Dean agree on very little save that Iran can’t be allowed to go nuclear. So – and this is an entirely serious proposal – let them break bread together on the subject.
The president should invite leading Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, sooner rather than later, to Camp David for a major policy summit with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and Intelligence Director John Negroponte. He could say, very plainly, that the United States faces a crisis and that it would be in the best interest of the nation and the world for there to be a bipartisan consensus on what to do about Iran.
He should have officials from the CIA, Defense Intelligence and the National Security Agency offer serious briefings on what we know and don’t know about the situation. And then he should lead a series of no-holds-barred conversations about the possible options and ways forward.
Update II: Not everyone supports Ahamadinejad’s outrageous rhetoric:
“The more Ahmadinejad confronts the international community, the more power he may show to his public in the short term but deny Iran a good life among world nations in the long term,” said Hossein Salimi, a professor of international relations in Tehran.
Even some of Ahmadinejad’s supporters are starting to question his tactics.
“Ahmadinejad has forgotten why he won the presidential vote. The needy voted for him because he promised to bring bread to people’s homes but nothing good has been done to improve living standards,” said Reza Lotfi, a student at Tehran University.
Mansour Ramezanpour, a construction worker, questioned why the government hasn’t done more for the weak economy.
“Previously, I went to work four days a week. Now, not more than two days. Recession is everywhere,” he said.