Iran's armed forces will make its enemies regret any act of aggression against the Islamic Republic, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned on Tuesday as Iranians marked National Army Day with a military parade near the capital Tehran.
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Although Ahmadinejad did not specify any countries, such language used by Iranian officials is a common reference to the West, especially the United States and Israel.
The harsh tone was typical of speeches for military events but it contrasted sharply with a sense of cautious progress after the direct talks with world powers last week on Tehran's nuclear ambitions. The remarks could leave Western officials confused by the mixed signals.
"Our armed forces will make the enemy face heavy and shameful regret if they commit any aggression and violate Iran's interests," Ahmadinejad said in a speech broadcast live on state TV.
Both the U.S. and Israel have not ruled out a military option against Iran's nuclear facilities, which the West suspects are geared toward making nuclear arms — a charge Tehran denies, insisting its program is for peaceful purposes only. Iran's refusal to halt the uranium enrichment program has been its main point of contention with the West.
"The foreign interference will bear nothing but destruction, rifts and insecurity" in the region, Ahmadinejad said.
The comments are typical of rhetoric that has been coming out of Tehran, belligerent one day, conciliatory the next.
Iran has hinted at more flexibility after Tehran and the world powers agreed to hold more talks on its controversial nuclear program following their Saturday discussions in Istanbul, which both sides praised as positive. A second round is planned for next month in Baghdad.
Prior to the talks in Istanbul with the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany, Tehran offered to scale back uranium enrichment but not abandon the ability to make nuclear fuel. At the same time, however, it ignored another Western concern — Iran's existing stockpile. The West wants Iran's current reserves of 20 percent-enriched uranium to be transferred out of the country.
After Istanbul, Iranian officials urged the West to start taking steps to lift sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the EU over Iran's nuclear activities.
During the parade on Tuesday, Iran displayed an array of its homemade short-range missiles, tanks, drones and air defense system as well as some of its jet fighters, warplanes and military helicopters. Iran has tried to build a self-sufficient military program since 1992.
On the sidelines of the parade, Iran's army chief Gen. Ataollah Salehi told the state IRNA news agency that U.S. warships in the Gulf are "sweet targets" for Iranian armed forces.
Salehi, who is known for anti-U.S. rhetoric and had threatened U.S. ships in the Gulf before, did not elaborate.
In January, he warned an American warship not to return to the Gulf shortly after the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and another vessel left the region. Another carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, entered the Gulf without incident later in January.
Iran has also in the past threatened to shut the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway in the Gulf through which a fifth of the world's oil passes, a move that could send oil prices soaring.
Among the weaponry on display Tuesday was "Qadr," or a Sacred Night mentioned in the Quran, a 2,000 pound guided bomb. Iran has earlier suggested it could counter the U.S. naval presence in the Gulf.