Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday admitted the possibility that his country could be attacked, but warned that an Iranian response would be crushing, according to Iran's semi-official Fars news agency.
"The possibility of (an) attack against Iran cannot be ignored," Ahmadinejad said in a televised interview. "But it can be said that Iran's response to any aggression will be crushing."
Ahmadinejad has rarely addressed the possibility of a military attack.
The Iranian president's comments come amid ongoing tensions over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, which Tehran continues to pursue despite crippling international sanctions that have paralyzed the Iranian economy.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been pushing for "red lines" over Iran's nuclear program, straining relations with US President Barack Obama, who prefers a strategy of sanctions to stall Tehran's nuclear development.
"Iranians have and will never start any war but they have always been good defenders and have always defended their territories in a memorable and historical form," Ahmadinejad said.
Rafsanjani: Israel needs US permission to hit Iran
On Monday, former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said Israel requires the permission of the United States if it wants to carry out a strike on Iran, according to Iranian media reports.
“Israel cannot attack Iran on its own," Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency quoted the former president as saying. "If it attacks (Iran), it must be sure that the United States will join it, either at the beginning (of the war) or during (the war). Therefore, it needs the United States’ permission.”
Rafsanjani emphasized that "the enemies" have pinned their hopes against Iran on sanctions, which have slashed Iran's oil export earnings and have caused the rial to lose two thirds of its value in just 10 days. He said that shows the West isn't serious about a military threat, but added: "We should prepare ourselves for any eventuality."
The former Iranian president also said Tehran is not as isolated as the West believes. "The majority of countries want to work with Iran," he said. "Our neighbors in the south and the north had been cooperating with us."
Obama's Middle East policy came under heavy attack on Monday from US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who said the US president was deliberately putting daylight between Israel and the US. “Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability,” Romney said. “And it has never acted less deterred by America.”
Rafsanjani's comments also come at the heels of remarks by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who on Monday dismissed the prospect of an Israeli strike on Iran in an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel. "If the Israelis had wanted to attack us, and if they could have done so, they would have done so long ago," he said.
Former chief of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Mohsen Rezaei also said Monday that Israel was not serious about military threats on Iran. "Of course the Zionists wouldn't dare invade Iran and only speak of war to win concessions from the next US president,” he said according to Iran's Press TV.
He added that Israel would lose at least 10,000 citizens in the aftermath of an Israeli military strike on the Islamic Republic.