The deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said Monday that Tehran’s strategy was to eventually wipe Israel off the “global political map.”
Asked by a reporter in Tehran about Israeli threats to strike Iranian forces deployed in Syria, Hossein Salami was quoted by Iranian news outlets as saying, “Our strategy is to erase Israel from the global political map, The Times of Israel reported. And it seems that, considering the evil that Israel is doing, it is bringing itself closer to that.”
He added: “We announce that if Israel does anything to start a new war, it will obviously be the war that will end with its elimination, and the occupied territories will be returned. The Israelis will not have even a cemetery in Palestine to bury their own corpses.”
Salami’s comments followed a series of reciprocal taunts by Israeli and Iranian leaders in recent weeks as tensions have risen on the Israeli-Syrian border between IDF and Iranian forces.
Last week, Israel reportedly conducted a rare daylight missile attack on Iranian targets in Syria. In response, Iran fired a surface-to-surface missile from Syria at the northern Golan Heights, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system over the Mount Hermon ski resort, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
Hours later, in the predawn hours of January 21, the Israeli Air Force launched retaliatory strikes on Iranian targets near Damascus and on the Syrian air defense batteries that fired upon the attacking Israeli fighter jets, the army said.
Twenty-one people were killed in the Israeli raids in Syria on January 21, 12 of them Iranian fighters, a Britain-based Syrian war monitor said the following day.
According to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 12 of those killed were members of Salami’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, six were Syrian military fighters, and the other three were other non-Syrian nationals.
Israel sees Iranian entrenchment in Syria as a major threat and in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Earlier this week, Iran’s military chief of staff indicated Tehran was preparing to adopt offensive military tactics to protect its national interests, an apparent reference to its posture in Syria toward Israel.
“Among the country’s broad strategies, there is a defensive strategy. We defend the independence and territorial integrity and national interests of the country,” Mohammad Bagheri was quoted as saying by Press TV on Sunday.
He said Iran did not intend to seize foreign territory, but “to protect our national achievements and interests, we may adopt an offensive approach.”
Also Sunday, the commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces, Kiumars Heidari, said his troops had transformed into a “forward-moving and offensive” force.
“To protect Iran, the armed forces no longer need asymmetric approaches, and we are at a stage where we can defend our homeland… by using good offensive approaches,” he said, according to Press TV.
The announcements by top Iranian brass comes days after the Islamic Republic held its annual infantry drill, involving some 12,000 troops, fighter jets, armored vehicles and drones.
The exercise, which Iranian officials called “war games,” involved newly developed rapid redeployment units, and focused on combat against enemies and armed militants, Reuters reported on Thursday.
General Heidari told state TV last week the exercise exemplified Iran’s military capabilities, and demonstrated to its enemies that they would be dealt a “rapid and crushing blow” if they attacked Iran, Reuters reported.
Iran regularly holds exercises to display its military preparedness and has vowed to respond strongly to any attack by Israel or the United States, both of which view it as a regional menace.