Iran's Rohani: Tehran Does Not Want 'New Tensions' in Region

Iranian official denies Tehran behind attack: 'We're not in Syria' ■ 'Diplomacy cannot help Iran, resistance only way to confront enemies,' Revolutionary Guard says

Iranian President Hassan Rohani speaks during a meeting with Muslim leaders and scholars in Hyderabad, India, February 15, 2018.
\ Danish Siddiqui/ REUTERS

Iranian President Hassan Rohani said Thursday evening that the Islamic Republic does not want "new tensions" in the Middle East, AFP reported, in his first response since the overnight flare-up between Israel and Tehran.

Earlier Thursday, an Iranian official denied that Iran was behind an overnight barrage of missiles on Israel, saying it does not have military forces in Syria, despite the fact that Israel blamed Iran's Revolutionary Guard for the attack.

"Iran does not have any connection to the missiles fired at Israel. If Iran did it we would have announced it immediately. When [ISIS] attacks Iranian targets in Syria we responded and made it known. Iran does not have any military presences in Syria and it was the Syrian army that fired missiles," the deputy head of Iran's national security council.

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The deputy head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said that diplomacy will not help Iran and that resistance is the only way forward.

"Iran's enemies are not seeking military confrontation," he said. "They want to pressure our country by economic isolation ... Resistance is the only way to confront these enemies, not diplomacy," he was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.

"Europe cannot act independently over the nuclear deal," Salami said, saying that Iran's enemies are not interested in a military confrontation with Tehran, but rather to isolate it economically. He also said that European nations who still support the landmark 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and the world powers will not be able to confront the U.S. on preserving it.

He made the comments hours after Israel accused the elite Iranian forces of firing a barrage of missiles at the north, only a day after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal with Tehran, sending shockwaves through the region.

A senior figure in Syria's opposition told Haaretz that Israel is protecting its security interests by attacking Iranian targets in Syria and that from the political point of view, the reduction of Iran's presence and influence in Syria will only accelerate a diplomatic, political proposal to end the war.

According to the official, Russia's tacit approval for the Israeli attacks is not a coincidence: "The Russians and the Americans can find a common formula for a solution without a massive Iranian presence on Syrian soil, because Iran is taking a clear ethnic-based line and not a diplomatic line, but our assessment is that the Israeli attack tonight does not change the balance of power or the Iranians' influence in Syria."  

On Wednesday, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cast doubt on the ability of the European signatories to guarantee Tehran's interests, adding: "I do not trust these countries either."

>> Major setback for Iran in Syria, but Israeli arrogance poses a danger | Analysis ■ Israel launches most extensive strike in Syria in decades after Iranian rocket barrage

Early Thursday, Israel attacked dozens of Iranian targets in Syria in what the military said was the most extensive strike in the neighboring country in decades. The strike was carried out in response to a barrage of 20 rockets that was fired from Syria at Israeli military outposts.

Israel said the targets of the retaliatory attack included weapons storage, logistics sites and intelligence centers used by elite Iranian forces in Syria. It also said it destroyed several Syrian air-defense systems after coming under heavy fire. 

This is the first time Israel directly accused Iran of firing towards Israeli territory. Tehran issued several threats over the past month, saying that it would hurt Israel in response to a slew of attacks that were ascribed to the Israeli air force. 

 This attack comes on the heels of a Syrian report Tuesday accusing Israel of carrying out an attack on a military base south of Damascus, which was used by Iranian forces. According to reports, Israeli fighter jets entered Syrian airspace and struck Iranian missiles aimed at Israel.

Israeli intelligence assessments from yesterday said that Iran plans a limited attack on a military target – a move that could avenge the humiliation of Israel’s strike on Syria’s T4 airbase last month - without sparking a broader war.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced  the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, saying he will reinstate economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The sanctions are set to be reinstated next week.

Trump said that the deal "should have never been made. It didn't bring peace, and it never will."