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Rouhani: Israel Will be Sorry if It Attacks Iran

If Israel attacks Iran's nuclear facilities, "our response will make them rue the day," says Iranian President in CNN interview.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/24/2014, 3:15 AM

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani
AFP photo

Israel will regret it if it attacks Iran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on Thursday.

Speaking to CNN on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Rouhani dismissed the possibility that Israel would attempt a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

"Israel knows very well what the response would be. Israel knows well our regional capability. When it comes to practice, the Israelis cannot do that. If they do such a crazy thing, our response will make them rue the day,” he threatened.

Rouhani said that in the interview that sanctions against Iran are illegal and are undermining international law.

"When it comes to sanctions, have they been successful so far? Sanctions first and foremost are illegal," he said. "And a Congress which claims to be making laws should not contravene international laws."

"These sanctions translate into the weakening of the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons), the weakening of international laws and regulations. No other country can decide for another country," he claimed.

Rouhani was responding to the bill that is being promoted in Congress and would impose new sanctions on Iran if it fails to live up to its part of the nuclear agreement signed with it in Geneva. The bill has been gaining support over the past few weeks.

"We are not afraid of threats," Rouhani told CNN. "And the language of threats is ineffective when it comes to Iran. The language they need to choose should be a legal one, a respectful tone of voice when addressing the Iranian people. ... It benefits our region and the interests of other countries."

The Iranian president suggested mistrust of the United States is deep-rooted, adding that "with regards to the policies of various American administrations in the past 30 years," the Iranian public is "very worried. ... They don't trust them."

At the same time Rouhani said, there is "full readiness" on the part of Iran "to take the final step" on the nuclear issue.

Asked about President Barack Obama's recent comment that he thought there was a no more than a 50-50 chance of completing a comprehensive agreement with Iran, rather than just the interim deal that was signed in November, Rouhani said that though the last step would be more difficult than the first, "the conditions allow us to take the final step."

Rouhani insisted that even under the deal that went into effect this week, Iran still had a right to peaceful nuclear technology, including enrichment, which he described as "part and parcel of the inalienable rights of states."

"It is part a part of our national pride, and nuclear technology has become indigenous," he said. "And recently, we have managed to secure very considerable prowess with regards to the fabrication of centrifuges," he added, explaining that "not under any circumstances" would Iran destroy any of its existing centrifuges.

Rouhani’s comments echo those of his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who on Wednesday insisted that the Obama administration was mischaracterizing the concessions by Iran in the six-month nuclear deal and stressed that his country never agreed to dismantle any part of its nuclear program in the interim deal.

On Thursday, the Iranian president gave a speech at the World Economic Forum, in which he claimed that he had no designs on his neighbors, and that Iran had no plans to develop nuclear weapons.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres were unimpressed by the speech.

"The most significant remarks were the ones he didn't make - he didn't express support for peace in the Middle East," said Peres. "He is the only leader I know who didn't say clearly the time has come to make peace between Israel and the Arabs. He excluded the reference to peace and when he was asked if his vision included all countries he said it included only the ones that Iran will accept, that is some definition."

In addition, said Peres, "he didn't announce that in order to reduce the bloodshed in Syria he's going to stop sending arms and money to Hezbollah to the stop the killing, he could have announced that seeing as he doesn't want a nuclear bomb that he will stop building long range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads."

"He didn't announce that Iran will stop being the center of terror in our time," he continued. "We can see their fingers in many terrible pies that endanger lives.

Netanyahu said that Iran is arming the Assad regime and directing Hezbollah to kill innocents in Syria. Rouhani speaks "about peace with countries in the Middle East," the Prime Minister said, but he doesn't mean it, as even during his address at the forum, he refused to address Israel by name.

"At a time when Rouhani talks about peace with the countries of the Middle East, he refuses – even today – to recognize the existence of the State of Israel, and his regime daily calls for the destruction of the State of Israel," Netanyahu said.

"At a time when Rouhani claims that Iran is not interested in a nuclear project for military purposes, Iran continues to strengthen its centrifuges and heavy water reactor, and to arm itself with intercontinental missiles, the sole purpose of which is for nuclear weapons," he added.