From Reuters, , Yeganeh TorbatiDUBAI:
Iran announced missile tests on
Sunday and threatened to wipe Israel "off the face of the earth" if the Jewish
state attacked it, brandishing some of its starkest threats on the day Europe
began enforcing an oil embargo and harsh new sanctions.The European sanctions - including a ban on imports of Iranian oil by EU
states and measures that make it difficult for other countries to trade with
Iran - were enacted earlier this year but mainly came into effect on July
They are designed to break Iran's economy and force it to curb nuclear work
that Western countries say is aimed at producing an atomic weapon. Reporting by
Reuters has shown in recent months that the sanctions have already had a
significant effect on Iran's economy.
Israel says it could attack Iran if diplomacy fails to force Tehran to
abandon its nuclear aims. The United States also says military force is on the
table as a last resort, but U.S. officials have repeatedly encouraged the
Israelis to be patient while new sanctions take effect.
Washington said the EU's oil ban might force Tehran to give ground at the
next round of nuclear talks, scheduled for this week in Istanbul.
Announcing three days of missile tests in the coming week, Revolutionary
Guards General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said the exercises should be seen as a message
"that the Islamic Republic of Iran is resolute in standing up to ... bullying,
and will respond to any possible evil decisively and strongly."
Any attack on Iran by Israel would be answered resolutely: "If they take any
action, they will hand us an excuse to wipe them off the face of the earth,"
said Hajizadeh, head of the Guards' airborne division, according to state news
The missile tests will target mock-ups of air bases in the region, Hajizadeh
said, adding that its ability to strike U.S. bases in the Gulf protects Iran
from U.S. support for Israel.
"U.S. bases in the region are within range of our missiles and weapons, and
therefore they certainly will not cooperate with the regime (Israel)," he told
Iran has repeatedly unnerved oil markets by threatening reprisals if it were
to be attacked or its trade disrupted.
The threat against the Jewish state echoed words President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad spoke in 2005, saying Israel "must be wiped off the page of time" -
a phrase often translated as "wiped off the map" and cited by Israel to show how
allowing Iran to get nuclear arms would be a threat to its existence.
The EU ban on Iranian oil imports directly deprives Iran of a market that
bought 18 percent of its exports a year ago. The sanctions also bar EU companies
from transporting Iranian crude or insuring shipments, hurting its trade
"They signal our clear determination to intensify the peaceful diplomatic
pressure," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.
The EU sanctions come alongside stringent new measures imposed by Washington
this year on third countries doing business with Iran. The United States
welcomed the EU sanctions as an "essential part" of diplomatic efforts "to seek
a peaceful resolution that addresses the international community's concerns
about Iran's nuclear program."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said he hoped the sanctions would force
Tehran to make concessions in technical-level talks with six world powers later
"Iran has an opportunity to pursue substantive negotiations, beginning with
expert level talks this week in Istanbul, and must take concrete steps toward a
comprehensive resolution of the international community's concerns with Iran's
nuclear activities," Carney said in a statement.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain - foes of Iran which face it across the
oil-rich Gulf - announced their own joint air force exercises on Sunday which
they said would take "several days," their state news agencies
In three rounds of talks between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and
Germany, the Western powers have demanded Tehran halt high-grade uranium
enrichment, ship out all high-grade uranium and close a key enrichment
The talks lost steam at the last meeting in Moscow last month and there was
not enough common ground for negotiators to agree whether to meet again.
Officials - but not political decision-makers - meet in Turkey on Tuesday.
Washington sees the sanctions and talks as a potential way out of the
standoff to avert the need for military action, but has not said it would block
Israel from attacking Iran.
...Iranian central bank governor
Mahmoud Bahmani ...has struggled to prevent a plunge in the value of the rial currency
and steadily rising inflation as the sanctions have taken effect. He said the
effects of the sanctions were tough but that Iran had built up $150 billion in
foreign reserves to protect its economy.
...Last Friday, another Revolutionary Guards commander, Ali Fadavi, said Iran
would equip its ships in the Strait of Hormuz - the neck of the Gulf and a vital
oil transit point - with shorter-range missiles.