LONDON (Reuters) – Iran said on Tuesday it would boost its military might and also unveiled a new fighter jet amid increased tensions with the United States and with regional rivals over conflicts in the Middle East.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it, adding that under President Donald Trump the United States was becoming isolated even from its own allies.
“We should make ourselves ready to fight against the military powers who want to take over our territory and our resources,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television ahead of Wednesday’s National Defence Industry Day.
“Why does the United States not attack us? Because of our power, because it knows the consequences,” Rouhani added.
Last week, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also said the United States would avoid any military confrontation with Tehran because of Iranian military might.
Khamenei has rejected Trump’s offer of unconditional talks on a new nuclear deal, prompting Trump to tell Reuters in an interview on Monday: “If they want to meet, that’s fine, and if they don’t want to meet, I couldn’t care less.”
Relations between Washington and Tehran worsened further after Trump in May took the United States out of an international deal that curbed Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for an easing of economic sanctions.
Trump branded that 2015 deal as flawed because it did not address Iran’s missile programme or involvement in conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and he has reimposed U.S. economic sanctions.
LOSS OF TRUST IN US
Rouhani compared the sanctions on Iran with the U.S. trade war with China and its new tariffs on some imports from Turkey and European countries.
“It’s not only us who do not trust America. Today even Europe and China do not trust them; even American allies like Canada have lost their trust,” he said.
Earlier on Tuesday Rouhani attended a ceremony, broadcast by state TV, that included the fly-past of a new home-made fighter jet called Kowsar, which is capable of carrying various weapons, and will be used for short aerial support missions.
Iran has sent weapons and thousands of soldiers to Syria to help prop up President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, but had to rely on Russia for aerial support due to its own lack of a powerful air force.
Iran’s air force has been limited to perhaps a few dozen strike aircraft using either Russian or ageing U.S. models acquired before the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Iran unveiled in 2013 what it said was a new, domestically built fighter jet, called Qaher 313, but some experts expressed doubts about the viability of the aircraft at the time.
Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions and embargoes that have barred it from importing many weapons.
Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Gareth Jones