Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei joined the list of Iranian leaders threatening Israel over the past five days, saying Israel would receive a “thunderous blow” if it attacked his country.
Khamenei, in a fiery address marking the 23rd anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, said Israeli talk of military strikes show it feels vulnerable after the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak last year.
“If they take any miscalculated action, they will receive a thunderous blow,” he said.
Khamenei also accused the US and the West of lying about the threat of a nuclear Iran to cover up their own economic problems, according to Iranian state television.
“What Americans and Westerners do is idiotic. They magnify the nuclear issue to cover up their own problems,” Khamenei said, referring to the economic gloom in the US and Europe.
“They are deceitfully using the term nuclear weapons,” he added.
Khamenei’s comments came a day after remarks made by his military adviser, Brig.-Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, who warned that Iranian missiles could reach all parts of Israel. And on Wednesday, Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, said a Western military intervention in Syria would “engulf” Israel.
The Tehran Times quoted Larijani as warning that “US military officials probably have a poor understanding of themselves and regional issues because Syria is in no way similar to Libya, and [the effects of] creating another Benghazi in Syria would spread to Palestine, and ash rising from the flames would definitely envelop the Zionist regime.”
While antagonistic statements from Iranian leaders are nothing new, what is somewhat unusual is that these comments, emanating from the very top of the Iranian hierarchy, are now coming almost every day.
Israeli officials attributed this trend to pressure the Iranians were feeling as a result of the stepped up sanctions, the talks with the world powers known as the P5+1 and the deteriorating situation in Syria – Iran’s key ally.
“There is no doubt that over the last few days we have seen an increase in the number of bellicose and egregious statements coming from leadership in Tehran,” a government official said.
“This could be because of the pressure they are feeling from the international community,” he added. “At this point it is critical that the international community ratchet up the pressure. The sanctions on Iran should be augmented, and the demands on Iran must be crystal clear.”
The official reiterated Israel’s demands: a full cessation of uranium enrichment inside Iran, the transfer out of the country of all uranium already enriched and the closure of the underground facility at Qom.
Another official said the fiery comments coming from Tehran were an attempt at “pushing back.”
The official said the Iranian threats always had to be taken seriously, and they reflected the Iranian leadership’s current state of mind.
During his address, Khamenei said international sanctions were not hampering Iran and were “deepening Iran’s hatred towards the West.”
Yet analysts maintain there are clear signs the Islamic Republic’s oil revenues and economy have been suffering since the United States and the European Union introduced tough new embargoes at the start of this year.
Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon met with David Cohen – undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the US Treasury Department, who is Washington’s point man on the sanctions issue – and discussed making these steps tougher.
During the meeting Ayalon stressed the need to ensure the full implementation of sanctions against the Iranian Central Bank and the European embargo of Iranian oil that are to go into effect at the beginning of July.
The Iranian issue had reached a “critical period necessitating intensive and uncompromising activity over the coming months,” Ayalon said.
Reuters contributed to this report.