Israeli and US actions have increased the risk of a regional war involving Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in Germany on Sunday, as his country inaugurated a new domestically-built submarine armed with cruise missiles.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presided over the launch, which was broadcast live on state television, in the port city of Bandar Abbas, the capital of Iran’s southern Hormozgan province.
The Fateh “Conqueror” submarine weighs 600 tons, Iranian television said, adding that it “enjoys state-of-the-art weaponry, including torpedoes, naval mines and cruise missiles that could be launched from a submerged position.”
The launch comes at a time of increased rhetoric between Iran and its two foes, Israel and the United States. It also follows the US-led Warsaw summit, in which representatives of 60 nations gathered to talk about regional issues, including ways to combat Iranian aggression.
“Certainly some people are looking for war,” Zarif told the Munich Security Conference, clarifying that he was referring to Israel, specifically its aerial activities in Syria against Iranian military targets. Such activity, he said, is a violation of international law.
“We are in Syria on the invitation of the Syrian government for the sole purpose of fighting terrorism: no other reason for our being there,” Zarif said. He delivered a speech to the conference and responded in a question-and-answer session.
“Violating Lebanon’s airspace and shooting into Syria is a violation of international law,” Zarif said. “So let us wake up. The risk is great, but the risk will be even greater if you continue to turn a blind eye to sever violations of international law... Israeli behavior is putting international law on the shelf; US behavior is putting international law on the shelf,” he said.
Zarif took issue with Israeli and US charges that Iran was a threat to Middle East stability.
“Is it Iran that threatens the annihilation of others? Or is it [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, the wolf-crier in chief, who openly threatened my country with obliteration, while standing next to his nuclear weapons package?” Zarif asked.
But the bulk of the foreign minister’s speech was an attack against the United States, which he said has a “maligned obsession” with destroying the Iranian regime. He took pains to describe his country as a force of stabilization in the Middle East, particularly in the fight against ISIS and to portray the US as a foreign, destabilizing agent.
Zarif attacked US Vice President Mike
Pence’s speech on Saturday in Munich, in which he stated that “the Iranian regime openly advocates another Holocaust and it seeks the means to achieve it.”
Pence also stated that: “The Islamic Republic of Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Iran has supported terrorist proxies and militias, Hezbollah and Hamas; exported missiles; fueled conflicts in Syria and Yemen; plotted terrorist attacks on European soil; and openly advocated the destruction of the State of Israel.”
“Antisemitism is not just wrong; it’s evil,” Pence added.
Zarif on Sunday shot back that Pence’s allegation of antisemitism was “ridiculous” and “very dangerous.”
“More and more nations [are] explicit about the fact that the US is the single biggest source of destabilization in our neighborhood,” Zarif said. He took issue in particular with the US decision to abrogate the 2015 deal between Iran and the six world powers, including China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US.
Zarif urged Europe to remain fast to the dea
l, noting that it “needs to be willing to get wet if it wants to swim against the dangers of US unilateralism.”
The US last May reimposed sanctions on Tehran, holding that the Iran deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international pressure and embargoes that have barred it from importing many weapons. Last year, Iran’s navy launched a domestically-built destroyer, which state media said has radar-evading stealth properties.
Iran says it has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 km. (1,250 miles), which puts Israel and US military bases in the region within reach.
The European signatories of Iran’s nuclear deal, despite remaining committed to the pact, have stepped up criticism of Iran’s ballistic missiles program.Reuters contributed to this report.