Iran Marks Defense Week With Rebuff to Clinton Over Army’s Role

Iran used the annual armed forces parade outside Tehran to counter concerns expressed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the power of the Iranian military and to stress its defensive role.

“We tell her Iran’s military might is only a deterrent and for defending our country against foreign aggressors,” the armed forces joint chief of staff, General Hassan Firouzabadi, said today in a speech aired live by state-run Press TV at the start of Sacred Defense Week, a commemoration of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. “Iran’s armed forces can confront any threat.”

Clinton said in a Sept. 19 interview on ABC’s “This Week” program, “When you empower a military as much as they have -- to rely on them to put down legitimate protests and demonstrations -- you create a momentum and unleash forces that you do not know where they will end up.” Iran’s Basij militia, controlled by the Revolutionary Guard Corps, was used against dissenters who disputed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2009 re-election.

Iran has hailed its recent advances as proof it is technologically self-sufficient and ready to confront foreign threats, even while under four sets of United Nations sanctions over its refusal to scale back its nuclear program.

The U.S. and several of its allies say Iran’s nuclear activities are cover for the development of a bomb, a claim that Iran rejects, saying it needs the technology to generate power for its growing population. Israel views the work as a threat to its existence and hasn’t ruled out attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Missiles Showcased

The televised parade included the presentation of Iran’s latest military achievements, including short- and long-range missiles. Among them were the long-range Sejil-2 missile, which can reach targets 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) away, the long-range Shahab-3 missile and the medium-range Shahab-2. Iran announced successful tests of the three missiles last year.

The Shejil and the Shabab-3 both put Israel within reach. Ahmadinejad has questioned the right of the state of Israel to exist and the truth of the Nazi Holocaust.

The Qiam surface-to-surface missile was also showcased, along with the Iranian-built Karrar, a long-range drone aircraft that can carry bombs.

In West Azerbaijan province, a smaller military parade was targeted today in a bombing in the city of Mahabad, about 550 kilometers (340 miles) west of Tehran. Eleven people were killed and at least 67 injured in the blast, a nurse said by telephone from the emergency room at the city’s Imam Khomeini Hospital.

The governor of the western province blamed “anti-revolutionary elements” for the bombing. The region has been the scene of attacks on government targets by the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK, which says it wants autonomy for Iran’s Kurdish areas.

Clinton told ABC that there has been “increasing power exercised by the military, by the Revolutionary Guard and by other militia and military entities,” and that the development is “a concern of people inside Iran.”