Barack Obama’s billion-dollar gifts still are not buying any love from Iran, as Ayatollah Khamenei promised devastating counterattacks to U.S. aggression on Sunday, a day after the naval commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boasted of achieving naval superiority over the United States in the Persian Gulf.
The Times of Israel reports on Khamenei’s latest belligerent outburst:
In an apparent reference to the US, Khamenei told soldiers at a Tehran air base “the enemy should understand that if it makes any aggression, it will be hit hard and our defense will also include response,” according to the state-run Fars news agency.
Khamenei also called to bolster Iran’s military capabilities “to the extent that the enemy doesn’t even allow itself to think about aggression.”
Referring to Iran’s controversial purchase of the S-300 missile defense system from Russia, Khamenei charged the US “doesn’t respect our nation’s right of defense and actually wants us to remain defenseless so that they can launch aggression against our country whenever they want.”
Speaking of the advanced, Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles, Iran’s state-run media announced on Monday that the weapons have been deployed around the Fordow underground uranium enrichment facility.
“Our main priority is to protect Iran’s nuclear facilities under any circumstances,” said Brig. Gen. Farzad Esmaili of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ air defense forces, as quoted by Reuters.
“Today, Iran’s sky is one of the most secure in the Middle East,” Esmaili boasted. He did not explain why Iran would deploy so much expensive imported firepower around a facility that supposedly isn’t being used.
Another Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander, Rear Admiral Fadavi, told a group of paramilitary volunteers on Saturday that the United States “doesn’t enjoy the power to confront Iran militarily.”
“Fadavi – who has previously called the US Iran’s sole enemy and claimed its military capabilities have weakened in recent years – claimed the 97 IRGC speedboats patrolling the Persian Gulf were keeping US warships in the Persian Gulf at bay,” writes the Times of Israel, alluding to several incidents last week in which Iranian boats performed dangerous, unprofessional “high-speed intercepts” of American navy vessels, in one case forcing an American ship to fire warning shots at them.
Reuters reports that Iran also claims to have run an American drone out of its airspace on Monday.
“Iran’s army air defense detected and warned an American drone in the eastern airspace of the country. It was coming from Afghanistan. The drone left the area,” said an Iranian official quoted by the Tasnim news agency.
Times of Israel adds that Iran claims the “radar-evading” American drone launched from a base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and was 20 miles away from Iran’s border when it was somehow “dissuaded from accomplishing its mission” by a “serious warning” from Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base.
It is commonly speculated that Iran is lashing out because its leaders are frustrated by the inadequate payoff from Barack Obama’s nuclear deal, which has “failed so far to yield the significant economic benefits for the country that its advocates had promised,” as the New York Times puts it.
That frustration could explain the rumored arrest last week of Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani, a dual Canadian-Iranian citizen who worked as an adviser to Iran’s central bank and helped Iran bargain for sanctions relief in the nuclear deal.
A spokesman for the Iranian judiciary confirmed that someone from the negotiating team was arrested on espionage charges, but later released on bail. As the NYT notes, it’s unusual that Iran did not identify the individual or explain why bail would be granted for the very serious charge of espionage.