The second-in-command of Iran's most elite force has warned Israel against moves that further threaten Tehran's interest in the region, especially Syria, where the West and its allies have targeted Syrian government positions.
Brigadier General Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, said Friday that a war between Iran and Israel would lead to the latter's total annihilation. Israeli jets have targeted the positions of Iran and its allies in Syria, but Salami said his country was now ready to retaliate at any moment.
"Our fingers are on the trigger and the missiles are ready to launch, at any moment that the enemy wants to start something against us, we will launch," Salami told a crowd gathered to commemorate the birth of revered Imam Hussein, according to Iran's semi-official Mehr News Agency.
"We have learned methods of overcoming our enemies," he added. "We can target our enemies' vital interests wherever we want."
Iran supports an independent Palestinian state on Israeli territory, some of which has been annexed without international recognition. Israel argues that Iran has threatened its national security through its support for various, mostly Shiite Muslim militias, especially the Lebanese Hezbollah, which regularly threatens and sometimes clashes with Israel. Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organization by the U.S, Israel and some of their allies, was formed with Iranian support in the 1980s in order to tackle an Israeli occupation of Lebanon and the powerful paramilitary group has since fought two major wars with Israel.
Hezbollah, along with other Iran-backed militias from Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, has recently been focused on battling rebels and jihadis trying to overthrow the Syrian government, which has mostly overcome a 2011 uprising sponsored by the West, Turkey and Gulf Arab countries. These Tehran-sponsored fighters have played a crucial role in defeating the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.
With ISIS largely decimated, Iran's growing footprint in the Middle East has become a major source of concern for Israel, as well as fellow U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. Last week, Israeli jets killed several Iranians when they bombed a Syrian air base and Israeli officials have threatened more attacks. Salami said Friday that he was prepared to go to war, one that would not be as limited in nature as previous conflicts.
"We know you very well. You are very weak. You have no depth. Every point of the land you occupy will be reached by flames from the north and the west," Salami said, as reported by the semi-official Fars News Agency. "Listen, any war that occurs, be certain that it will lead to your elimination."
"There is no way for you but the sea. Do not trust your air bases, the flames will reach them and they will quickly be made useless," he added. "Do not leave it to America, Britain and France. By the time they arrive, you won't be there. So be careful of your behavior and do not make risky calculations."
The U.S., U.K. and France launched a series of airstrikes against Syrian state-run facilities they claimed were involved in the production of chemical weapons. The attack came nearly a week after a suspected toxic gas attack that they believed Bashar al-Assad was behind. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he "fully supports" the strikes in a statement released Sunday. Russia and Iran, however, have cast doubt on their ally's culpability and condemned the U.S.-led operation in Syria.
In a speech Sunday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah criticized the attack, telling followers the operation failed to achieve its goals.
"If it was to submit and blackmail, it failed. If it was to frighten and break the morale of the Syrian people and their allies, this also failed and the opposite happened. If it was to lift the morale of the militants, the attack frustrated and disappointed them according to what their leaders stated," Nasrallah said, according to Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese outlet Al Manar.
"Finally, if their goal was to change the equation for the benefit of Israel, the Israelis were also frustrated and stated that Trump’s beautiful rockets got a zero result," he added.
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