Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday with a scathing condemnation of Russia’s decision to go ahead with the sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Iran at a time when the Islamic Republic is becoming emboldened in its anti-Israel and anti-American rhetoric.
The arms deal, which was made in 2007 but suspended in 2010, injects much-needed cash into the Russian economy, following sanctions imposed for its aggression against the Ukraine.
“Israel views with utmost gravity the supply of S-300 missiles from Russia to Iran,” Netanyahu said, “especially at a time when Iran is stepping up its aggression in the region and around the borders of the State of Israel.”
“Israel also views with utmost gravity the fact that there is no reference to this aggression in the agreement being made between the [P5+1] major powers and Iran. There is no stipulation that this aggression be halted, whether at the start of the agreement or as a condition for the lifting of sanctions.”
Netanyahu referred to Iran’s Army Day parade, held Saturday in Tehran. “Yesterday we saw the military parade in Tehran and Iran’s exhibition of weapons to the world. Every year the missiles are bigger and enhanced – in accuracy, strength and deadliness; however, one thing does not change. What does not change is the inscription ‘Death to Israel‘ on the missiles.”
The parade, which was attended by military and political leaders, among them Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, was televised. It showcased the country’s military prowess in the form of advanced weapons systems, including a domestically-produced version of the Russian S-300 missiles which are the subject of the controversial deal. According to Rouhani, the Bavar 373 is part of the country’s “strategy of deterrence in order to prepare for peace and security in Iran and the Middle East.”
“Our method of action is defense and not offense,” he said.
Despite the president’s words, a television announcer proclaimed during the broadcast, “If Israel makes a mistake, those in Tel Aviv and Haifa will not sleep at night, not one person.” Chants of “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” could be heard throughout the parade.
The Army Day parade came just one day after the commander of Iran’s ground forces, Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, claimed publicly that the US had established terror groups in the region to harm Islam and bolster Israel’s position in the Middle East.
According to the Iranian semi-official Fars News Agency, Pourdastan told an audience at Tehran University, “The ISIL (Islamic State), Boko Haram and al-Nusrah have been created in line with the US strategy of religion against religion, which seeks to impair the divine face of Islam.”
“The American and European people’s high tendency towards Islam and (the necessity for) protection of the Zionist regime’s security have caused the US to create the terrorist groups,” he added.
Netanyahu assured his cabinet, however, that Israel would protect its people. “Against the threats that I have described, Israel will do whatever is necessary to defend the security of the state and its citizens.”