Iran is ready to share its missile systems with friends and neighbors, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards said, after he showed off missiles including some he said had cluster warheads.
Guards commander-in-chief Yahya Rahim Safavi also told Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam TV late on Sunday the Guards had thousands of troops trained for suicide missions in case Iran was threatened although he said any U.S. attack was unlikely.
The United States has said it wants to resolve a dispute over Iran’s nuclear program by diplomatic means but has not ruled out the use of force. Washington believes Tehran is seeking to make atomic bombs, despite Iranian denials.
“We are able to give our missile systems to friendly and neighboring countries,” Safavi told Al-Alam. A text of his comments in Farsi were obtained by Reuters on Monday.
'Duty to help friendly countries'
Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad Reza Sheibani, was quoted by Iran’s semi-official Mehr News Agency on Sunday as saying the Islamic Republic was ready to supply air defense systems -- without giving specifics -- to the Lebanese military.
“Tehran also considers this as its duty to help friendly countries which are exposed to invasion of the Zionist regime (Israel),” Sheibani was quoted saying, in response to what he said was a request by Lebanon’s army commander, General Michel Suleiman, for help from friendly states.
Iran funded and supplied Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia in the 1980s, but now says its support is political and moral. The group used Iranian-made missiles fighting Israel this summer.
On Thursday, at the start of 10 days of military exercises, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said they fired Shahab missiles with cluster warheads. Experts say the Shahab 3 has a maximum range of 1,242 miles, able to hit Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf.
Military experts said the exercises were to show off Iranian technology, although they say many systems are based on modified versions of equipment from other countries, such as North Korea.
Washington dismissed the maneuvers as “saber-rattling.”
“Under the current circumstances, Americans are involved in Afghanistan and the quagmire of Iraq so we do not anticipate any military attack from America,” Safavi said.
“But Iran has its own defense and deterrent power and it is very unlikely that America will cause us any problems.”
“...We have military weapons which we have not shown off, but we will do in the next maneuvers,” Safavi added.
'Thousands of martyrdom seekers'
Iran frequently reports tests of new weapons systems, but experts say it rarely gives enough detail to make clear if any significant advances have been made.
“The Revolutionary Guards does not only depend on its technological might because it has thousands of martyrdom seekers and they are ready for martyrdom-seeking operations on a large scale,” Safavi said, calling them trained professionals.
An organization has previously said Iranians have signed up for suicide raids in case Iran was attacked, but officials have in the past said the group was independent of the government and not part of the Guards, the ideological wing of Iran’s military.
No Iranians are thought to have directly executed suicide bombings in recent years. But the United States accuses Iran of being a state sponsor of terrorism, a charge Tehran denies.