Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed on Tuesday a Western assertion that military force could yet solve the nuclear dispute if negotiations prove fruitless.
He said that Iran would pursue peaceful atomic research “forever.”
In a speech marking the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Rouhani attacked economic sanctions imposed by the West as “brutal, illegal and wrong” and said countries in the region had nothing to fear from Iran.
Chants of “Down with the US” and “Death to Israel,” were shouted in what local media said was a turnout of millions, though AFP put the number in the hundreds of thousands.
A senior military aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei played down the chances of a US or Israeli attack, but said if one occurred, it would lead to the destruction of Israel by Hezbollah, Iran’s Fars News Agency reported.
“The start of war against Iran means the destruction of the Zionist regime by Hezbollah forces of Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah,” said Maj.- Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi.
Iran’s military test-fired two new domestically made missiles on Monday, a gesture of national resolve, ahead of talks next week with world powers to try to reach an agreement on curbing Tehran’s nuclear program.
Rouhani said Western officials continued to argue that if such efforts came to nothing, there was always the option of using military force against its nuclear facilities.
“I say explicitly to those delusional people who say the military option is on the table, that they should change their glasses.... Our nation regards the language of threat as rude and offensive,” he said. “I want to expressly announce that the movement of the Iranian nation towards the peaks of scientific and technical progress and advancement, including peaceful nuclear technology, will be forever.”
“Threats against Iran are worthless and childish.... Unity and resistance against foreign colonialism made the Iranian nation victorious,” he said, according to Fars.
Iranians who took to the streets to celebrate, held up signs, with one reading: “We are eager for ‘the options on the table,’” reported Fars.
“We are ready for the great battle,” another sign read.
Iran and six world powers struck an interim deal in November, under which Tehran agreed to limit parts of its nuclear work in return for the easing of some international sanctions.
Hard-liners, unsettled by the foreign policy shift since Rouhani was elected in June, have repeatedly criticized the agreement.
Iran’s most powerful authority, Khamenei, has so far backed the deal.
Iran and the six powers are to start negotiating a full agreement in Vienna on February 18. Easing of sanctions, imposed on Iran over its nuclear activities, began in late January.
In recent weeks, Iranian officials have repeatedly criticized US Secretary of State John Kerry for speaking about a potential military option, something his counterparts in several other Western countries have continued to do.
Kerry told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television on January 23 that if Tehran did not abide by the interim deal “the military option of the United States is ready and [the US is] prepared to do what it would have to do.”
“We wanted to strip ill-wishers of their scare-tactics, we wanted to speak even louder that there is no basis for fearing Iran in the region, that they are all lies.... We must eradicate the negative image in world public opinion about our revolution,” said Rouhani.
Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif told Iran’s Press TV that the large turnout for the anniversary celebration shows that the people support the regime.
“They showed that they are determined to find their way, to have their voice heard in the world, and today, they’re showing that although they want cooperation, although they have no quarrel with anybody, they will not accept anybody trampling upon their right, they will not accept anybody demanding from them things that are outside the international norms of behavior,” he said.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan as saying on Tuesday that the test fire of a ballistic missile should be regarded as a proper response to unfounded allegations made by the United States.
Speaking to IRNA, he said the test firing was in response to those underlining that “all options are on the table.”
Dehqan said one of the missiles was a long-range ballistic missile with radar-evading capabilities.
Meanwhile, Iranian Navy commander Adm. Habibollah Sayari confirmed previous reports that Iranian warships are heading toward the Atlantic Ocean.
All countries are entitled to use international waters, “and we don’t seek to violate any country’s territorial waters,” Sayari told Fars on Tuesday.
“The army’s fleet of warships is now in the Gulf of Aden and they are moving towards the Atlantic Ocean,” he said, adding, “Iran’s military fleet is approaching the United States’ maritime borders, and this move has a message.”
“Like the arrogant powers that are present near our maritime borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to the American [maritime] borders,” he said according to the report.
The Pentagon said on Monday it was unconcerned by the Iranian announcement that it was sending naval vessels toward US maritime borders, saying that lots of countries operated in international waters in the Atlantic.
The Pentagon has no information indicating that the ships are approaching the Atlantic yet, spokesman Col.
Steve Warren said, adding that “to our knowledge, this is an announcement only at this point.”
“We are not concerned about their announcement to send ships into the Atlantic.
As I said earlier, freedom of the seas applies to every nation,” Warren said.