ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty ImagesOctober 20, 2021
The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said the United States has “fled” Afghanistan and is currently counting its “last months” in Iraq as well. Underlining Washington’s regional “defeats,” Hossein Salami added that US “plots” in Lebanon and Syria have also failed.
The Iranian general, known for his ferocious anti-West rhetoric, was speaking at a “martyrs’ graveyard” in the southeastern city of Kerman, where his former colleague, slain commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani,i s also buried. Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike in January 2020 outside Baghdad’s international airport. The attack almost brought Tehran and Washington to the brink of a full-scale war. Iran retaliated for the general’s killing with over a dozen missiles that landed on a US air base in neighboring Iraq. American officials have denied Iranian reports that the strike left a number of US soldiers dead.
In his speech, Salami also highlighted what he called the American defeat in its “economic siege” on Iran, one of the various terms Iranian officials have used in reference to US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
To get those sanctions lifted, Tehran has been seeking to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, engaging in multiple stages of negotiations with world powers. The United States, which withdrew from the deal under former President Donald Trump in 2018, is now seeking re-entry. In exchange for any sanctions removal, the United States demands Tehran keep its nuclear program under the caps set by the accord. The Islamic Republic, however, is pursuing its uranium enrichment at a 60% level, which to the Western side is a sign that a weapons program could be just around the corner.
Israel, Iran’s No. 1 enemy, has persistently opposed negotiations for a restored deal with Tehran, arguing that Iran is buying time to make the bomb. While attempting to persuade world powers not to offer concessions to Tehran, Israel wants other options on the table as well to protect the security of its citizens.
In this vein, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that the government in Jerusalem is about to ratify a $1.5 billion budget for a “potential strike”on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The fund, according to the report, is meant for aircraft, intelligence-gathering drones and “unique armaments.”
For over a decade now, Israel is believed to have been targeting Iran’s nuclear program, including the heavily guarded and sensitive Natanz enrichment facility. The extent of the damage from those attacks has not been officially announced by the Iranian side, but estimates by unnamed Israeli officials have spoken of “crippling” and “dramatic disruption.”
Israel’s intelligence authorities have also been constantly updating a hit list of Iranian scientists. The last such target was Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, known to Israeli officials as Iran’s top nuclear and missile expert. He was killed in a sophisticated operation outside Tehran last December.
Iranian officials have pledged to retaliate against all of those “sabotage plots” and “assassinations” when “the time is ripe.”