A top Iranian official Wednesday said arch-foe Israel was waging a “psychological war” after the Jewish state’s army said new “offensive options” were being drawn up in case they were needed against the Islamic republic.
Mahmoud Vaezi, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff, also vowed his country was ready and willing to defend itself.
“We have no intention of going to war, but we are serious about defending the country,” he said.
Israel, a close US ally, accuses Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran denies. The Jewish state also frequently targets Iran-backed militant groups in Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s military chief General Aviv Kochavi said Tuesday he had ordered new plans be drawn up this year to counter Iran’s nuclear capabilities, in case political leaders decided to target the country.
“The power to initiate them lies with the political echelon,” Kochavi said. “However, the offensive options need to be prepared, ready and on the table.”
Iran’s Vaezi shot back on Wednesday that “they are conducting a psychological war.”
Responding to a question on the sidelines of a council of ministers meeting, he charged that Israel has “practically no plans, no capacity”.
Iran’s recent military manoeuvres, testing missiles and drones, Vaezi added, showed that “our armed forces are trained” to defend Iran.
Iran’s military spokesman Abdolfazl Shekarchi warned against Israeli “threats towards Iranian nuclear installations and missile bases,” which he said were based on “illusions” conjured by the Jewish state, in an interview published on state TV’s website.
Kochavi’s remarks came nearly a week after the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, who has signalled he wants to return to dialogue with Iran.
His predecessor Donald Trump had unilaterally withdrawn Washington in 2018 from a nuclear deal Tehran had struck with major world powers.
Biden’s team has argued Iran must first return to strict compliance with its nuclear commitments under the 2015 deal with world powers.
Tehran has demanded an “unconditional” lifting of punishing sanctions first, and called on Washington to stop seeking to “extract concessions”.
Israel rejects the original nuclear deal, and Kochavi reiterated its view that “any agreement that resembles the 2015 agreement is a bad thing, both strategically and operationally”.
“Pressure on Iran must continue — Iran must not have the capacity to develop a nuclear bomb.”