Originally published by Newsweek
Iran’s defense minister has responded to the suggestion of military action from Israel by threatening to “raze” the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa, as regional tensions remain high amid U.S. President Joe Biden’s efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal.
Israel remains staunchly opposed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which it says is inadequate and will only embolden Tehran in its weapons programs, and has threatened military action against Iran’s nuclear program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that his country would stop Iran’s nuclear program “with or without” the JCPOA, while Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kohavi have both said their troops are drawing up attack plans.
Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami said Sunday that the country would retaliate if attacked, the state-run Fars News Agency reported. Hatami dismissed Israeli leaders as “dogs” and the country as “too small to show hostility to the Islamic Republic.”
“The Zionist regime knows—and if it does not know, it should know—that if it makes a mistake, the Islamic Republic will raze down Tel Aviv and Haifa,” Hatami added. “I advise them not to make this mistake, even in words.”
Iran has traditionally threatened attacks against Tel Aviv—Israel’s commercial and technological capital—and Haifa to try and deter Israeli action against it. After Kohavi’s comments in January, Iranian Armed Forces spokesperson Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi said Iran could “level Haifa and Tel Aviv in the shortest possible time.”
Israel has previously launched attacks against nuclear facilities in Syria, Iraq and—in coordination with the U.S.—Iran. The country is also accused of an assassination program against Iranian scientists before the JCPOA was signed, as well as the killing of top nuclear researcher Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November.
The Biden administration has said it plans to coordinate with regional allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia which remain set against the JCPOA, considering it a win for Iran and a threat to their strategic position.
Gantz said last week that Israel “will never allow Iran to become nuclear capable or anywhere close to it,” during an interview with Fox News Radio. “If the world stops them before, it’s very much good. But if not, we must stand independently,” he added. “And we must defend ourselves by ourselves.”