JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—”The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor and it will be removed,” Iran’s Supreme Ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared in an address televised live Friday to worshipers at a prayer service at Teheran University.
Khamenei said that Iran would support any “nation or group that wants to confront and fight against the Zionist regime.” He noted that Iran has helped Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas in their fights against Israel.
The mostly young crowd responded by chanting “Death to Israel.”
The ayatollah said the Islamic Republic would not yield to international pressure to abandon its nuclear program and threatened to strike back at sanctions against Iran’s oil exports.
“Threatening Iran and attacking Iran will harm America…. Sanctions will not have any impact on our determination to continue our nuclear course…. In response to threats of oil embargo and war, we have our own threats to impose at the right time,” Khamenei told the worshipers.
He warned the United States and Israel against taking military action against its nuclear facilities, declaring an attack would be met with “iron fists.”
“Our enemies, particularly the Zionist regime, America, and its allies, should know that any kind of threat and attack or even thinking about any action will be firmly responded to,” Khamenei said. “The Revolutionary Guards and army and our nation … will answer attacks with strong slaps and iron fists,” he said.
The official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Khamenei as saying that war threats would “disfavor the US itself; the war would be ten times against interests of the US itself.”
Khamenei’s warnings followed a similar declaration on Thursday by Ali Baqeri, the deputy secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, that a military strike against Iran by Israel would threaten its own survival.
“If the Zionist regime allows itself such an oversight, a question of its existence will arise, not a question of its legitimacy but a question of its existence,” Baqeri said on a visit to Moscow.
Khamenei’s warnings came after a number of Israel’s leaders spoke candidly about the growing Iranian threat on Thursday at the 12th annual Herzliya Conference on national policy.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the conference that a consensus exists among many nations today that, if diplomacy and sanctions fail, to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, a military strike should be launched.
“If sanctions don’t achieve the desired goal of stopping [Iran’s] military nuclear program, there will be a need to consider taking action,” he declared.
Barak’s threat was preceded by one at the conference from Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon, who said Iran must be stopped “one way or another,” and a similar military threat by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.
More ominously, OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi told the conference that Iran has stockpiled enough enriched uranium to produce four nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta believes Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in April, May, or June.
According to the report, Panetta is concerned that Israel will attack before Iran reaches the so-called “immunity zone”, when its nuclear facilities will be too heavily fortified for a military strike to succeed.