Iran would take action if the United States were to carry out an act of “stupidity” and attack Syria, an Iranian military official was quoted as saying on Saturday, but the comments later disappeared from the state-linked agency website.
Iran has steadfastly supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his bid to suppress an uprising which both Tehran and Damascus see as a proxy war by Israel and Western states to extend their influence in the Middle East.
“If America were to attack Syria, Iran along with Syria’s allies will take action, which would amount to a fiasco for America,” Mohammad Ali Assoudi, the deputy for culture and propaganda of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was quoted as saying.
Assoudi’s comments were first carried by the government-linked news agency Young Journalists’ Club but were later apparently taken down from the group’s website. The comments were picked up by Iranian news sites including Iran’s Jam-e Jam newspaper and the BBC’s Persian-language site.
Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment.
Assoudi did not specify exactly what steps Iran would take, but said Syria’s allies would implement their joint military pact in the case of a U.S. attack.
“In the case of American stupidity and a military attack by this country on Syria, the joint military pact of Syria’s allies would be implemented,” Assoudi said.
Iran and Syria signed a mutual defense pact in 2006, but little is known of its details, or whether there are any other signatories.
The Islamic Republic considers Assad’s government, along with Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, part of an “axis of resistance” against the influence of the United States and Israel in the Middle East.
But while Turkey, Gulf Arab countries and Western states admit to giving non-weapons aid to the Syrian rebels, there is little or no appetite in Washington, especially in an election year, for direct military intervention in Syria. Without U.S. leadership, its allies also appear unwilling to go it alone.
Iran accuses Western powers and regional states of supporting and arming the rebels, while the rebels accuse Iran of sending IRGC fighters to help Assad crush the uprising.
“With cooperation from Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, America has the goal of striking a blow against Syria and making preparations for the fall of the Syrian government,” Assoudi said.
Meanwhile, Iran will hold a large-scale military drill involving all its air defense systems next month, an Iranian commander was quoted as saying on Saturday, one of a number of military simulations it has carried out this year.
The air defense drill will include fighter jets and simulate emergency situations, said Farzad Esmaili, commander of the Iranian army’s air defense force, according to Iran’s English-language Press TV.
The drill will include both the army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Esmaili said, and follows a series of large-scale military simulations such as the “Great Prophet 7” missile exercises in July.
Israeli leaders’ warnings that time is running out to halt Iran’s controversial nuclear program have raised concern they may order an attack on Iranian nuclear sites, though Israel has come under growing international pressure not to act alone.
Israel and major Western powers suspect Iran is secretly trying to acquire the ability to produce nuclear bombs, but Tehran says its program is for purely peaceful purposes.
“Today our systems are prepared in a serious way for modern air threats, such that the performance of the systems compared to the previous profile has improved,” Esmaili was quoted as saying on Friday by the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri.
“The army air defense command’s mission, with the development of the national defense mission and coordination between the armed forces, is to undertake appropriate operations against the threats of the enemies,” he said, without mentioning any country by name.
Iran announced last month that it had tested a short-range missile with a new guidance system capable of striking land and sea targets.