Iran Says Armed Forces Not a Regional Threat, Calls for Unity Against U.S.

LONDON (Reuters) -
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool via Reuters)

President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that Iranian armed forces were not a threat against any regional country, as Tehran held an Army Day military parade to unveil its latest military equipment amid rising tensions with the United States.

In a ceremony in Tehran, broadcast live on state media, marching soldiers passed a podium where Rouhani and top military commanders were standing, and locally designed and produced fighter jets took part for the first time in an air display.

Iran also unveiled missiles, submarines, armored vehicles, radars and electronic warfare systems. It also showed off its Russian S-300 missile defense system.

“I want to tell the regional countries that the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran are not against you and your national interests. They stand against invaders… The roots of our problems are the Zionist regime and American imperialism,” Rouhani said.

Iranian armed forces were more powerful than ever, said Rouhani. “We seek regional security and stability, countries’ sovereignty and the end of terrorism and their activities in this region,” he said.

Iran has two armies, a regular one which operates as a national defensive force, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that was created after the 1979 revolution to protect the Islamic Republic against both internal and external adversaries.

The United States officially designated the Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization on Monday, an unprecedented move which was condemned by Iran and created concerns about reprisal attacks on U.S. forces.

Rouhani called the U.S. move against the Guards “abhorrent” and said that “insulting the Revolutionary Guards is an insult to all [Iranian] armed forces, and an insult to the Iranian great nation.”

Iran‘s army has the biggest ground force in Iran and the Revolutionary Guards is in control of a growing arsenal of ballistic missiles.

The parade was canceled in a few provinces where the armed forces were deployed to help flood-affected people. The flooding, which began on March 19, has killed 76 people, forced more than 220,000 people into emergency shelters, and left aid agencies struggling to cope.

Rouhani said, “I doubt we can find this level of unity between people and armed forces in any other country.”

Separately, Iran and Oman held a joint naval exercise and performed maritime rescue operations in the Gulf, Fars news agency reported on Thursday.