On Sunday, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force gave a speech about Iran’s ballistic missile capability. At the very end of it, he said that if Israel attacked Iran (as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have repeatedly threatened to do), Iran would retaliate by destroying Israel.
The Irish Times has a good article on the speech.
Since Israel has 400 nuclear warheads, and Iran has none, this bravado is not, to say the least, justified.
The Brigadier General continued:
“Hajizadeh explained that if the Zionist regime attacks Iran, it will be destroyed. He said, “If those people make a move, it will hand us a justification to wipe them off the face of the earth.”
وی ادامه داد: این رژیم اگر بخواهد به ایران حمله كند باید مشاركت آمریكا را جلب كند اما با توجه به این كه پایگاههای آمریكا در منطقه زیر برد موشكها و سلاحهای ما هست قطعا زیر بار همكاری با این رژیم نمی رود.
فرمانده هوا فضای سپاه پاسداران خاطرنشان كرد: مقامات آمریكایی نیز بارها به رژیم صهیونیستی در این خصوص تذكر داده اند.
سردار حاجی زاده با بیان این كه اگر رژیم صهیونیستی به ایران حمله كند نابود خواهد شد، گفت: اگر آنها حركتی كنند، بهانه ای به دست ما می دهند تا آنها را از روی كره زمین محو كنیم.
First of all this is not a threat to commit an act of aggression. Iran has a ‘no first strike’ policy, repeatedly reaffirmed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Brig. Gen. Hajizadeh is threatening to retaliate with everything he has if Iran is itself the victim of a naked act of aggression.
In 2006 I got involved in a controversy over the translation of a phrase in a speech by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as quoted by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. The quote was, “This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the arena of time”, which Ahmadinejad misquoted as “from the page of time.”
The wire services had earlier translated Khomeini’s phrase as “Israel must be wiped off the face of the map,” and this version was revived when Ahmadinejad quoted it in 2005. I simply pointed out that the translation was inexact and that Khomeini and Ahmadinejad had not put it as a threat of aggression but rather a wish. It isn’t a nice wish, but it isn’t Hitler threatening to roll tanks on Poland, which is what the wire service version implies. The verb vanish in this sentence is mahv shavad, which in Persian is intransitive. Shodan does not take an object. To “wipe out” would be mahv kardan, which is transitive.
Hajizadeh’s phrase is very different from Khomeini’s. He really does use “mahv kardan,” to “wipe out” with the transitive helping verb. And he actually mentions the words, “face” and “earth” in Persian.
Far from this speech disproving my earlier point, it confirms it. This is what a threat to wipe Israel off the face of the earth would look like. What Khomeini and Ahmadinejad said wasn’t a threat, it was a wish (a nasty wish, but a wish).
That Hajizadeh is using harsh language in response to Israeli harsh language is not exactly surprising,. But he is not talking about aggression, rather about a reply to an attack on his country. The UN Charter recognizes the right of self-defense when a country is attacked.
Since we now know that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told George W. Bush that if Iraq hit Israel with SCUDs, Israel would ‘escalate,’ i.e. nuke Baghdad, it is difficult to see what the difference is between that sort of talk and what Hajizadeh said, except that Sharon really did have nukes, and Iran does not.
Moreover, while Iran is not threatening to attack (i.e. launch a first strike against) Israel, Israel is daily threatening to attack Iran (i.e. launch a first strike against Iran). Actually Netanyahu in threatening a unilateral act of unprovoked aggression against Iran is violating the UN Charter, which forbids member states to menace one another with aggression. Hajizadeh’s statement is not nearly as bad, since he is only talking about retaliation. But what he said is highly objectionable from another point of view, insofar as it involves a disproportionate response.
Hajizadeh is not the commander in chief of the armed forces. That is Khamenei, who has pledged ‘no first strike.’ This bit of bluster doesn’t amount to anything.
The USG Open Source Center translates a different article on Hajizadeh’s speech, which does not include the language about Israel:
Iran: Guards Corps To Hold Exercise Using New Missiles
Mehr News Agency
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Document Type: OSC Translated Text
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force is to start on Monday (2 July) three-day drills called Great Prophet, involving surface to surface missiles. Bases in the middle of a desert similar to extra-regional air bases will be used as targets during the drills.
According to a Mehr reporter, speaking about the great aerospace professional exercise at his news conference held today, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force, said: In the sacred name of the Great Prophet, the IRGC’s surface to surface missile aerospace exercise will be held from Monday (2 July) for three days.
Brigadier General Hajizadeh added: During this exercise, long-range, medium-range, and short-range missiles will be used to strike 100 predetermined targets from various parts of the country.
He said: The major difference of this exercise with other IRGC exercises is setting up bases similar to the extra-regional air bases in the middle of desert. After shooting on the bases, experts will be able to measure the accuracy and effectiveness of warheads and evaluate the systems under the created conditions.
The commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force talked about the IRGC’s new achievements such as the Qyam missile and said: This missile is being produced on a massive scale and handed over to different units to be used in this exercise.
Brigadier General Hajizadeh mentioned the Khalij-e Fars missile and said: This missile is anti-floating and work on it has been completed. It is being produced at the Ministry of Defense.
He said: In this exercise, targets in the Semnan Desert will be aimed from various parts of the country, even from Sistan-Baluchestan Province.
(Description of Source: Tehran Mehr News Agency in Persian — conservative news agency; run by the Islamic Propagation Office, which is affiliated with the conservative Qom seminary; www.mehrnews.com)