As tensions continue to rise along Israel’s northern border, the Commander of Iran’s Ground Forces has warned that Israel can no longer threaten the Islamic Republic.
Speaking in Tehran ahead of Iran’s Army Day, Brigadier General Kiumars Heidari was quoted by official news agency Mehr saying that Iran’s armed forces “are much more powerful than before” and “the date has been set” for Israel’s destruction.
Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian entrenchment on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are red-lines for the Jewish State.
Iran’s Army Day is marked on April 18, the same day that Israel will celebrate the country’s 70th Independence Day.
Heidari added that compared to other countries in the region such as Saudi Arabia, which imports its arms from the West, the armed forces of Iran are produced locally.
Iran’s military budget for 2017 was a record $15.9 billion, up nearly 65 percent from 2014, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) receiving the largest boost with $7.01 billion, up from $4.52 billion the year before.
The country’s defense ministry received some $6.6 billion.
Heidari’s remarks were echoed by Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami, who stated Sunday that Iran “has reached self-sufficiency” in producing, supplying and exporting weapons made in Iran.
Israel is concerned that Iran is not only trying to consolidate its grip in Syria, where it could establish a forward base to attack Israel, but that it is trying to build advanced weapons factories in Syria and Lebanon in order to manufacture GPS-guided missiles that could hit targets with greater accuracy within a 50 meter radius.
“We are determined to defend our country and the regional states’ security, and when other countries are after chaos in the region, we should equip ourselves to defend and fortunately, today we enjoy the possibility to produce weapons better than the existing ones in the world,” he was quoted by Fars News as saying during a parliamentary meeting in Tehran.
“Wherever we need to change or enhance our defense achievements, we are able to turn it into a new product and use it,” he added.
On Friday, Israel’s army announced that an Iranian drone – believed to be a copy of a US stealth drone that was downed in Iran in 2011 – which infiltrated into Israeli territory in February was armed with explosives and had been on a “sabotage mission” without disclosing the target.
Last week Israel also reportedly carried out an airstrike against Syria’s T4 airbase, the same base where the drone took off from in February, killing seven Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force soldiers, including Col. Mehdi Dehghan who led the drone unit operating out of the base.
A senior IDF official confirmed to The New York Times that Israel was behind the attack, stating that the February incident “opened a new period” between the Jewish state and the Islamic Republic.
“This is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy,” he said, adding that the strike on the Iranians at T-4 “was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people.”