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Iranian General Warns Of Pre-Emptive Action If Threatened

International tension over Iran's disputed nuclear activities was ratcheted up today, when an Iranian general warned that his country would take pre-emptive action if its national interests were threatened.

Reuters reported Gen. Mohammed Hejazi made his comments in an interview with the semi-official Fars News Agency.

"Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran's national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act without waiting for their actions," Hejazi said, according to Reuters.

The AP translatedHerjazi's comments like this: "We do not wait for enemies to take action against us. We will use all our means to protect our national interests."

Now, The New York Times notes a very important caveat, which is that Iran's leadership is complex and divided so deciphering the government's intention is difficult, "but the statement showed a new level of aggressiveness in Iran's rhetoric."

The Times also reminds us that the comments come after Iran decided to place restrictions on inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency and come a day after Iran announced it was halting oil exports to Britain and France.

The Times adds:

"... The standoff between Iran and the West sometimes resembles a poker game with potentially lethal stakes, as both Iran and its adversaries maneuver for advantage with no way of knowing their opponent's ultimate intentions.

"British leaders, for instance, are trying to dissuade Israel from contemplating a military strike at Iran's nuclear facilities, while President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran boasts of enhanced enrichment capabilities.

"Over the weekend, William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said that while the West should leave all of its options open, a military strike would have "enormous downsides," and that Britain's main priority was to "bring Iran back to the table" through diplomacy and economic pressure."

Over the weekend, the AP reports, Iran also tried to show off its military muscle launching a "two-day land military exercise to upgrade its capabilities to defend the country against possible external threats."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.