TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran bluntly warned the West on Sunday against launching an attack after a defiant display of its military prowess, including a new longer-range missile that could reach Israel.
The comments at the start of an annual defence week came amid warnings of military action over Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, an option the Islamic republic’s arch foes the United States and Israel have never ruled out.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in his first such intervention since French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned the world to brace for war, said any attack on Iran would not be a simple “hit and run”.
“Military aggression against Iran is no longer a case of ‘you hit and you run,'” said Khamenei, in comments broadcast on state television late on Saturday.
“Anyone who launches an aggression will seriously suffer the consequences of this aggression.”
Deputy parliament speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar added on Sunday: “Any military attack against Iran will send the region up in flames.”
At the annual military parade on Saturday to commemorate the start of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, Iran showed off its military strength and taunted its arch enemy Israel with 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 within reach as well as Israel.
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 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 Western warnings of conflict, saying “they talk like an illiterate person who is showing their biceps and fists against a learned person.”
The influential director of the hardline Kayhan newspaper, Hossein Shariatmadari, wrote Sunday: “Compared to the past, one can easily understand the era of the bullying of the superpowers is over and a new era has come.”
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 leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
“Israel has to be wiped off the map,” read another Khomeini saying which aroused worldwide controversy when it was repeated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.
Iran’s military has however been hit by the US trade embargo, and Revolutionary Guards chief Mohammad Ali Jaafari admitted that the Islamic republic would need to outsmart its enemies using means other than technology.
“Their material capabilities are better than ours, 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.
Iran has said it will never initiate an attack, but has warned it could strike US bases in the Arabian peninsula, Iraq and Afghanistan — as well as Israel — in response to any aggression.