Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman slammed Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s declaration on Monday that he had ordered the increase of increase uranium enrichment capacity.
"Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's declaration is a sign of hysteria and mass panic in the Iranian leadership." he said Tuesday at a conference of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Eilat.
According to Liberman, Khamenei’s remarks were a “response to Peugeot’s announcement that it is suspending its activity in Tehran. When such a corporation announces that it is leaving the country because of the sanctions, it’s a signal to the entire business community and to all the investors. This is not a marginal company. This company is one of pillars of the European economy. Iran is afraid that all European investors will leave its territory.”
Liberman added that “we haven’t seen strikes and protests like the ones of the past months since the Khomeini era. There is the truck driver and big bazaars strike as well as calls for the return of the Shah. There is no doubt that they’re also connected to the economic threat.”
“Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s declaration is a sign of hysteria and mass panic in the Iranian leadership,” Liberman said on Tuesday at a conference of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Eilat.
According to Liberman, Khamenei’s remarks were a “response to Peugeot’s announcement that it was suspending its activity in Tehran. When such a corporation announces that it is leaving Iran because of the sanctions, it’s a sort of signal to the entire business community, to all the investors – and this is not a marginal company. This company is one of pillars of European economy, so Iran is afraid that all European investors will leave its territory.”
Addressing the ongoing unrest in Iran, Liberman stated, “We haven’t seen strikes and protests – like the ones of the past months – since the Khomeini era. It’s also the truck drivers and big bazaars’ strike, and calls for the return of the shah. There is no doubt that they’re also concerned about the economic issue.”
On Monday, Khamenei ordered preparations to increase uranium-enrichment capacity, and took to Twitter, warning Iran’s “enemies”
that, should the Islamic Republic be “hit with one missile, they will be hit by 10 of them.”
A spokesman for Iran’s nuclear agency was quoted by Reuters as saying Tehran will inform the UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna that it has started the process to increase uranium-enrichment capacity.
Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization director Ali Akbar Salehi said on Tuesday that Tehran has begun work on infrastructure to build advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility, but will adhere to its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
According to Salehi, the developing of infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at Natanz – which is about 300 kilometers south of Tehran – is moving along quickly and “will be ready in the coming weeks and months.”
According to Liberman, “Iran is not an Israeli problem, but rather a regional and global problem, and that’s how it has to be related to. It’s important to talk about the problem all the time and bring it up to the international community. We see Iranian subversion not only against the State of Israel – we see them in Yemen, in Bahrain, in the Gulf, in Lebanon. So it’s a regional threat. Whoever has been listening in the past few months, in the past six months, to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, to the foreign minister, I sound like a dove of peace compared to them.”
Liberman reiterated that Israel will not accept any Iranian presence in Syria, and that the military option vis-a-vis Iran has not been removed from the table.
“They have missiles in the range of hundreds of kilometers, and it does not matter from where in Syria they shoot them,” Liberman said, stressing that Israel “would not allow Iran close our skies.”
Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on its borders, and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are Israeli red lines.
Reports in recent days have claimed that Israel and Russia have agreed to remove Iranian and Hezbollah troops as well as Shi’ite militias from southern Syria. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Thursday that Iranian forces were preparing to withdraw from southern Syria, away from the Israeli border.
Brig.-Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, an adviser to the chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, has denied reports that Iranian forces would withdraw from Syria, saying, “The Zionist regime’s greatest fear is the proximity of Muslim fighters near its border. It has come to pass. Now that this has come true, the US and Israel are making desperate efforts to change the situation. But they [US and Israel] should know that this condition is not going to change.”Reuters contributed to this report.