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AFP
February 9, 2020

Khamenei says Iran must become strong to end ‘enemy threat’

World

AFP
February 9, 2020

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that the Islamic republic must become strong enough to ward off the "enemy’s threats" and prevent a war.

Khamenei also said Iran had a strong air force despite decades of US pressure and sanctions on the country since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"We must become strong so that there will not be a war, become strong so that enemy’s threats will end," he told a gathering of air force commanders and staff.

"We do not want to threaten anyone... this is to prevent threats, to maintain the country’s security," he added in a speech aired on state television.

Tensions escalated between Tehran and Washington after a January 3 US drone strike killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Iran retaliated days later by firing a wave of missiles at American troops stationed in Iraq.

Its defence forces had been braced for US retaliation when they shot down a Ukraine International Airlines flight a few minutes after take-off from Tehran on January 8.

"Our Air Force, which had no right to and couldn’t even repair parts of aircrafts (before the revolution) now builds planes," Khamenei was quoted as saying on his English-language Twitter account.

"Sanctions are literally crimes, BUT they can be turned into opportunities," he added.

In 2018, the United States withdrew unilaterally from a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and began reimposing sanctions as part of its "maximum pressure" campaign on the country.

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrel visited Tehran last week on a mission aimed at lowering tensions over the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme, which has been crumbling since the US withdrawal.

Iran has gradually stepped back from its own commitments under the deal, prompting the European parties to trigger a complaint mechanism under the deal to pressure Tehran to return to full implementation.Khamenei noted that “in order to impede war and put an end to the threats, one has to become strong.”

“We are not seeking to threaten any nation, but to defend the country from threats,” the Leader stressed.

Every year on February 8, Iranian Air force commanders and personnel meet the Leader to mark the historic allegiance of Iranian Air Force officers with the late founder of the Islamic Republic Imam Khomeini back on February 8, 1979.

The meeting is viewed as a turning point which led to the victory of the Islamic Revolution three days later, sealing the fate of the US-backed Pahlavi regime in Iran. Addressing the air force personnel, Khamenei said that “during the past regime, the Air Force was one of the closest forces to the central authority and the United States.”

“However, the tyrannical regime was struck from this very force, which it never expected,”he noted.

Khamenei added that “certain clever individuals in the US establishment have understood this and have said that we should not allow Iran to experience an economy without oil”.

“Therefore, they say that we should leave a path open so that the Iranian economy doesn’t become detached from oil,” the leader said urging Iranian officials to be vigilant against such a plot.

Speaking about the Trump administration, Khamenei said that “unlike Washington’s former rulers which pursued evil goals with certain disguise, today, deviation, war mongering, sedition and the greed of Americans take place without cover”.