Iran “does not pose a threat to any country,” the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Saturday.
He said the Islamic republic must become strong enough to ward off the “enemy’s threats” and prevent a war.
“We must become strong so that there will not be a war, become strong so that enemies’ threats will end,” Khamenei told a gathering of air force commanders and staff aired on state television.
“This is to prevent threats, to maintain the country’s security,” he added.
Iran funds the Gaza-based Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups and Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror organization, all of which are sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Khamenei called US sanctions on the Islamic Republic “criminal” but said they were “an opportunity” to make Iran less dependent on oil exports and focused on local industry.
Khamenei also said Iran had a strong air force despite decades of US pressure and sanctions on the country since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. “Our Air Force, which had no right to and couldn’t even repair parts of aircraft [before the revolution] now builds planes,” Khamenei was quoted as saying.
On Wednesday Khamenei vowed that Tehran would fund Palestinian terror groups to the best of its ability, asserting that it was the proper response to the unveiling of the Trump peace plan.
“We believe that Palestinian-armed organizations will stand and continue resistance, and the Islamic Republic sees supporting Palestinian groups as its duty,” he said in an address published on his website. “So it will support them however it can and as much as it can, and this support is the desire of the Islamic system and the Iranian nation.”
Khamenei said US President Donald Trump’s peace plan for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will “die” before the American leader does.
The US plan, seen as overwhelmingly supportive of Israeli goals, has been firmly rejected by the Palestinians.
In a Tehran speech marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in the country, Khamenei, 80, called the 73-year-old Trump’s plan “foolish” because, he predicted, it will not bring any results.
“You saw that the US aggressors and highwaymen unveiled the plan of the so-called #DealOfTheCentury,” he wrote, referring to the January 28 ceremony at the White House at which Trump released the long-awaited plan.
“They have wishfully chosen a big name for it hoping to achieve it,” Khamenei said, adding that the plan is “stupid” and “detrimental to themselves since day one.”
“Moreover, this plan is indicative of the US’s viciousness and manipulation. They have come to negotiate with the Zionists over what belongs to the Palestinians!”
“Palestine belongs to the Palestinians. Who are you to make a decision on it?” Khamenei declared.
Khamenei has previously called the Trump proposal “satanic” and vowed countries in the region would not allow it to be implemented.
On Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the leaders of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to condemn the Trump plan.
A day earlier, he phoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to reiterate Tehran’s opposition to the plan. Speaking with Abbas, Zarif expressed his support for the “rights of the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination and the embodiment of establishing an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Palestinian Authority news service Wafa reported.
He also said that Iran was working to forge “an international consensus” against the Trump plan.
The plan grants Israel much of what it has sought in decades of international diplomacy, including control over Jerusalem as its “undivided” capital, rather than a city to share with the Palestinians. It also lets Israel annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley — some 30 percent of the West Bank. The proposal provides for a potential Palestinian state in 70% of the West Bank, with restricted sovereignty under overall Israeli security control, provided the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state among other conditions. It offers them Jerusalem neighborhoods on the far side of the security barrier for a capital.
Tensions between the US and Iran have been steadily rising since Washington in May 2018 pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers saying it didn’t go far enough to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, or address its missile program.
The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action had given Iran relief from sanctions in return for it limiting its nuclear research program. Having pulled out, the US then applied severe sanctions on Iran, particularly targeting its oil industry.
Iran has responded by reducing its own commitments to the deal prompting European signatories to trigger a dispute process paving the way for them to also possibly restore sanctions.
The two countries were brought to the brink of war last month after the US killed a top Iranian general in a drone strike. Iran responded with missile strikes on Iraqi military bases housing US troops, dozens of whom suffered traumatic brain injuries from the shockwaves of the explosions.