Top Iran cleric says Israel must be destroyed, warns US

Reza Kahlili Contributor
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The recognition of Israel as illegitimate is one of the principles of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, and even today the Islamic Republic believes Israel must be destroyed, a senior Iranian cleric close to the supreme leader said Saturday night.

Ayatollah Sayyid Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts — the body that chooses the supreme leader — also condemned any effort for improved relations with America and warned that nothing is ruled out against the United States, according to Tasnim News Agency, a regime media outlet.

Referring to those who believe talks with the U.S. would be beneficial, Khatami said, “If we take one step back, then we have to retreat 10 steps.”

The ayatollah said that during President Hassan Rouhani’s recent trip to the United States to attend the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly, “The American politicians put out many diplomatic smiles.”

But at a meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the same time, “The American president stated that all options are on the table, including the military option. We too have all the options on the table against America, one of those a strong punch in the mouth to America, the world’s oppressor.”

Khatami said that in resolving the nuclear issue, the West “will then raise the issue of human rights, stating that women must have all the rights that men have.” He added that the holy slogans of “death to America” and “death to Israel” will never be removed and reiterated the regime’s position that Israel must be annihilated, and anyone stating otherwise is “Anti-Supreme Leader,” which carries a death penalty under the laws of the Islamic Republic.

“Even if one day there are negotiations and contact with America, our hatred for infidels and oppressors will never cease,” Khatami said. “… the end of the story by America is this, that they want us to open the way for them to come and loot this country [of its resources]. However America must know that it will take this dream to its grave.”

Rouhani, in an effort to ease tensions between Iran and America to remove some of the sanctions that are crushing the regime’s economy, has requested a moderation in tone from regime officials. At the same time, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president and an influential politician since the early days of the revolution, recently pushed for the removal of the “death to America” slogan, which hardliners strongly opposed.

According to a source in the regime’s intelligence ministry — one who cannot be named for security purposes — the regime is unified in this new tactic of showing a moderate face in order to deceive the West into relieving some sanctions. Those officials are fully aware that Iran’s foreign currency reserves are almost depleted and that their economy soon will be on the verge of collapse. However, the source added, the loyalists can only tolerate a certain level of rapprochement even though they know it’s only for show.

Iranian television Sunday quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi that the transfer of Iran’s nuclear material out of the country is its red line. Other officials previously stated that the regime might negotiate over the level of enrichment but will not stop its enrichment program.

Iran and the world powers 5+1 are set to discuss the country’s nuclear program on Tuesday in Geneva.

Despite several United Nations resolutions and sanctions by the U.N., United States and European Union demanding a halt to Iran’s illicit nuclear program, the Islamic Regime has significantly expanded the program and currently has over 18,000 centrifuges, with enough enriched uranium for more than six nuclear bombs. At the same time, it is set to complete its heavy-water plant, which would give the regime a second path to nuclear weapons by acquiring weapons-grade plutonium.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).