Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Iran Top Commander: US Troops Hostage if War Breaks

Members of the Iranian army's air force salute as they re-enact the scene of founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's arrival to Iran in 1979 at Merhrabad airport, in Tehran 1 February 2012. (Photo: REUTERS - Mehr News Agency - Ruhollah Yazdani)

Published Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran’s Joint Armed Forces Masoud Jazayeri says Tehran’s support for Syria is the same as its support for Palestine and Lebanon.

Elie Chalhoub (EC): Let’s begin with the recent mix-up regarding a US aircraft carrier entering the Strait of Hormuz earlier last month. The public and analysts watched as Iranian generals made threats, but the aircraft carrier was able to enter Hormuz, and the tension in the Gulf subsided. Most did not understand what happened. Could you explain the details of what occurred?

Masoud Jazayeri (MJ): The Islamic Republic has given the United States a number of warnings, and will issue more warnings of this kind in the future if necessary. America must take care to enter and leave the Strait of Hormuz without causing any harm. This applies not only to the US but also to all countries that wish to enter and leave the Persian Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz. We request that the Americans keep their distance from the region that we have specified and stay away from there.
Why do I say this? Because we believe that in recent years the presence of Americans in any region has caused disturbances and created tension and problems. In order for us to avoid any confrontation that could pull the region toward instability, we suggest and ask the Americans to not only stay away from this region but to stop their aggressive behavior as well. We have said that before and I am repeating it here. We say that it is necessary for the Americans to withdraw from the Persian Gulf, not only because there no need for the presence of American forces but also because this presence is causing problems.

EC: In the final days of 2011 you made some big maneuvers between Hormuz and Bab al-Mandab. At the time it was said that you intended to close Hormuz for six hours to carry out some missile tests, then you postponed them. Could you explain what you did in these maneuvers and what messages you wanted to send to the West and the United States in particular?

MJ: We practiced for several scenarios and this training will help to ensure smooth passage through the Strait of Hormuz into, and out of the Persian Gulf. Therefore, our goal from these maneuvers was to maintain the flow of traffic through the strait as a service to all those who have an interest in such a passage. However, since the arrogant [US government] is pursuing the policy of dictating to others [what they should do], we have no way out but to stand firm and resist. Thus, it is completely natural for us to conduct maneuvers and training focused on the safe and smooth crossing of the Strait of Hormuz.

Of course, I must point out that a large portion of the Strait of Hormuz in the east and west is under our control. We carried out a number of maneuvers before and we will do many more in the future. We are continuously developing our capabilities in this field in order to be able to take the appropriate and necessary decision in the specified time regarding any crossing through the Strait of Hormuz.
EC: You intend to carry out similar maneuvers this month in the same spot. What do you intend to accomplish?

MJ: The Strait of Hormuz is a very strategic point, and defending it requires that the Islamic Republic test numerous scenarios. There is no doubt that the preferred option is to practice a number of field maneuvers there.

EC: Europe and the US made good on their threats and imposed an oil embargo on Iran. Will you make good on yours and close the Strait of Hormuz in July?

MJ: I will tell you categorically that the Islamic Republic is ready and willing to take any action that will protect the Islamic Republic’s national interests in the Strait of Hormuz. Everything depends on the future circumstances. If we feel that the oil sanctions on Iran require us to close the Strait to all vessels, be completely sure that we will not hesitate for a moment to do so, and that we are capable of doing it. However, the circumstances may be different in the future. Therefore, we must wait and see what the situation requires [at that time].

EC: There are some military analysts who say that Iran has no possible targets. Iran has no weapons that can reach American territory. Iran will not dare to strike American forces in Turkey out of fear of starting a war there. Iran cannot strike the American bases in the Gulf for fear of starting a Sunni-Shia conflict. Even the American forces in Iraq have withdrawn. How will Tehran respond to an act of American aggression?

MJ: In the event of a war, the American forces in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf will be our hostages. According to the scenario that you propose, the Islamic Republic has an idea of the solution and we have no worries in this regard. Of course, we are worried about the possibility of any war taking place, be it in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, within the Islamic Republic, or anywhere in the world. We believe that dialogue should govern relations between peoples and states instead of it devolving into wars and armed struggles.
Usually states that lack sound reason pursue the policy of creating war and conflicts. If the Islamic Republic is subjected to any military threat, far from any slogans or media propaganda, I tell you plainly that we have the capability to defend ourselves, particularly since the deep strategy of the Islamic Republic enables it to strike severe blows to the enemy. I repeat, we are not worried at all about this matter.

EC: There are those who say that since the Iran-Iraq war, Iran has not entered any war of its own. Instead, it has fought all its battles by proxy, whether through Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis [in Yemen], or the Shia parties in Iraq. In fact, there are some strategists who say that there is an implicit understanding between the US and Iran to keep the rules of engagement between them without war, because war will hurt both parties. What do you say about that?

MJ: America relies on the principle of keeping its opponent off the field, and in order to do so, it will use any means necessary. If they do not attack the Islamic Republic militarily, it is because they are not capable of it. American military strategy in the region depends on the principle of military intervention, the most prominent examples being Iraq and Afghanistan.
By contrast, the military strategy of the Islamic Republic rests on a defensive principle in accordance with Islamic religious teaching. Iran has tried not to be the instigator of any war. In the Iran-Iraq war, Iran was not the one who started it. It was merely a country defending itself. From this point of view, Iran tries not to enter wars, but if war is imposed upon us we will use our defensive capabilities.

Fortunately, the Islamic Republic in the 32 years since the Islamic Revolution...possesses advanced military technology. Iran is capable of defending itself. We have opposed and continue to oppose any war in the region. We strongly opposed the wars imposed upon Hezbollah and Hamas as well as the war on Afghanistan. We believe that we must defend the oppressed in the face of the oppressors.
EC: We are used to hearing Iranian officials laugh mockingly whenever Israel threatens Iran. When America makes a threat, the reply is that they are incapable of acting on it. According to information from more than one international capital, the American-Israeli threats now seem serious. What is your opinion about the present possibility of an American strike on Iran?

MJ: With regards to Israel, I will say that it has lost the last two wars. It lost a war in which it used all its capabilities against Hezbollah. The Israelis turned and ran away in this war. These are not my words. It is what Israeli military officials themselves have said. The same thing happened with Hamas, but unfortunately, the media does not show what really happened.
Israel has been defeated by both Hezbollah and the oppressed Palestinians. With these heavy military losses behind it, how will Israel reach Iran’s level of combat? The beginning of Israel’s end will be with the first missile it launches in the direction of the Islamic Republic.
With regards to the US, I have nothing more to add. It is true that it is a powerful country. However, the American officials and decision-makers are fully aware of their weak points in the region surrounding us and the rest of the world. They know that Iran is capable of inflicting damaging strikes on these weak points of theirs.

Therefore, we believe that there are sober heads in the US trying to prevent any war from taking place, because any war by the US against Iran will hurt them greatly. Of course, war hurts all involved parties, but Iran will not be the only one damaged by this war. America and a number of countries will be affected as well.
EC: Are you afraid that Israel will strike Iran in order to get the US involved?

MJ: The Israelis have information indicating that any clash will lead to the destruction of Israel. Before the US enters the war, Israel would be exposed to very extensive damage. Therefore, we believe that there are people in Israel who realize this reality and are working to prevent these clashes. Israel knows well that it cannot beat Iran and it cannot match us. Therefore, we believe that everything coming out of Israel on this matter is media and psychological warfare, especially after the defeats it has suffered at the hands of Hezbollah and Hamas.
By creating an imaginary or hypothetical conflict with a major force like Iran, Israel is seeking to demonstrate that it is a regional power. We believe that the era of Israeli power has passed and that the military, political, and social makeup of Israel has shown its true colors during the wars with Hezbollah and Hamas. The goal of this Israeli activity, especially with Iran, is for Israel to show itself to be bigger than it really is. However, its size does not appear significant from an operational perspective.

EC: You say that you have made progress in the electronic war, and taking down an American spy drone was a good indicator of that. The Israeli media has reported that you have succeeded in disabling an American satellite. Is this true? Could you give us examples of how Iran is capable of striking its enemies electronically in any future war?

MJ: With regards to electronic warfare, Iran has made significant progress. We are always trying to follow international law and we do not think it is necessary to carry out any operations against the satellites of any country in violation of international law and customs. I do not have more information than that on this topic. My advice is not to get carried away with rumors started by the Zionist state.

Future wars will depend to a large extent on electronic warfare, and Iran is like the rest of the world in that it is trying to develop technologically on this front as well.
EC: In two consecutive speeches, [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei announced his complete support for the Assad regime in Syria because it is the one country that stood on the side of the resistance. Are you prepared to enter a war to defend Syria?

MJ: What the leader of the revolution said was that Iran defends all countries that support the resistance. This defense is based on new circumstances. Just as we stand by our brothers and sisters in Palestine and Lebanon, we will stand by all states that support the resistance, and we will support them in any way possible.

EC: Khamenei also said that you did not intervene in Bahrain, and if you had, it would have changed the equation. What could you have done? Would you have fought Saudi Arabia in Bahrain?

MJ: We believe that just as an Islamic awakening has happened in the rest of the [Arab] countries – where the people are able to accomplish certain things – then the same thing must happen in Bahrain. We approve of non-violent methods in this country and by that I mean unarmed methods. We are still hopeful that the logic of the Bahraini people will overcome the policies of their government.
The government that the Bahraini people want and are satisfied with is one that will do what they expect. We believe that any interference in Bahrain will lead to more tension. The presence of foreign forces in Bahrain is one of the things preventing the Bahraini people from controlling their own country and society.
Just as we are opposed to a foreign presence in Bahrain, we do not – given the current circumstances – want to interfere in the affairs of the Bahraini people. We believe that the Bahraini people have enough awareness and they should make the fateful decisions regarding their country themselves.

EC: Following the assassination of the nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, Khamenei talked about painful retaliation. He left the matter to the armed forces, which formed a committee headed by you to set the appropriate target and timing. What will your response be?

MJ: We believe that the policy of terrorist assassinations is a policy that shows weakness and loss of reason. However, we have our own arrangements that we will carry out at the right time against those who stand behind the perpetrators.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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