TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed Tuesday his country is now stronger than ever and warned that the Iranian military will “cut the hand” of anyone who dares attack the nation.
Ahmadinejad spoke at an army parade in Tehran that showcased Iranian military might and marked the anniversary of the start of the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war. The war, launched by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, claimed an estimated 1 million lives.
“Our armed forces will cut the hand of anyone in the world before it pulls the trigger against the Iranian nation,” said Ahmadinejad.
The remark, though typical for the Iranian leader, reflects Tehran’s concerns it could be targeted because of its nuclear facilities. The U.S. and its allies fear Iran’s nuclear program masks a secret nuclear weapons pursuit, but Tehran denies the charge and says it’s for peaceful purposes only.
It is also seen as a response to recent statement from Iran’s archenemy Israel, which has said it is keeping all options, including the military one, on the table against Iran.
Iran’s military readiness is such that “no power dares imagine an invasion against Iran,” Ahmadinejad added. “The Iranian nation will resist all invaders.”
Ahmadinejad is preparing to take the world stage with a speech Wednesday to the U.N. General Assembly, where he is expected to come under heavy pressure over the nuclear issue. He will likely try to deflect the controversy and cast himself as a champion of a new world order ending Western domination and providing justice for developing nations.
Iran is also poised to enter key negotiations with the United States and other powers seeking concessions on Iran’s nuclear program on Oct. 1. The U.S. and its allies suspect Tehran already has enough enriched uranium to build a bomb but Iran says the uranium is for generating electricity.
Tuesday’s parade speech was also meant to underline Ahmadinejad’s strength in the face of a three-month domestic turmoil in which the pro-reform opposition has staged dramatic protests claiming Ahmadinejad’s victory in June presidential elections was fraudulent.
Last week, Ahmadinejad taunted Israel, questioning whether the Holocaust was “a real event” and calling it a pretext used by Jews to trick the West into backing the creation of Israel. On Monday, he said he was proud the remark stoked international outrage. At the parade, Ahmadinejad lashed out at the “presence of foreign forces in the region” meaning U.S. troops in Iraq and said it was “unacceptable that some deploy troops to the region from thousands of kilometers (miles) away.” He accused foreign powers of creating rifts among Mideast countries while saying Iran seeks to promote brotherhood and peaceful coexistence of all nations. But the parade was marred by an accident, as a military plane crashed into fields just south of Tehran early Tuesday. The state IRNA news agency said the plane flew in the air force show that was part of the parade, but there was no immediate word of casualties or details about the plane.
Various types of Iranian military planes took part in the show, including U.S. made jet fighters and bombers, Russian-made MiG-29, Sukhoi 24 as well as Iranian Saeqeh, or Thunderbolt.
The parade for the first time displayed the Russian-made Tor-M1 air-efense system meant for defending Iran’s nuclear facilities and plants against air strikes.
The Tor-M1 can hit aerial targets flying at up to 20,000 feet.
Russia elivered the system to Iran in early 2007. The two countries are now discussing the delivery of a newer version of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system that is capable of shooting down aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missile warheads at ranges of over 90 miles and at altitudes of about 90,000 feet.
The parade, held on the grounds next to the cemetery in southern Tehran where thousands of fallen Iranian soldiers from the war with Iraq are buried, showed off various types of Iranian missiles, including the Shahab-3 and Sejjil, with a range of 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) and 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) both putting Israel and U.S. bases in Mideast and Europe within striking distance.
Iran sees the U.S forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as a threat, and remains adamant to build up its military capabilities. Tehran also claims it exports military equipment to more than 50 countries.