TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday vowed to defend Muslim countries against terrorism and Israel while insisting that its neighbours should not feel threatened.
Speaking during a Na¬tional Army Day parade in which Iranian forces displayed sophisticated air defence systems recently acquired from Russia, Rou¬hani praised Tehran’s role in helping the Syrian and Iraqi governments roll back the Islamic State group.
“If tomorrow your capitals face danger from terrorism or Zionism, the power that will give you a positive an¬swer is the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said. But he add¬ed that Iran would only help if Muslim countries asked it to, and said its military pow¬er was purely for defensive and deterrent purposes.
“The power of our armed forces is not against our southern, northern, eastern and western neighbours,” he said. He appeared to be referring to Gulf Arab states, which have long viewed Iran as seeking to dominate the region. Saudi Arabia and Iran are long-time rivals that back oppo¬site sides in the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars. During the parade, the army dis¬played Russian-made S-300 air defence missiles deliv¬ered earlier this month.
The President insisted Iran`s plans to upgrade its military capabilities were defensive in nature, refer¬ring to the worst conflicts in the Middle East.
“Our military, political and economic power is not directed against neighbour¬ing countries and the coun¬tries of the Islamic world.
“When Baghdad was threatened by terrorists, the Islamic Republic of Iran re¬sponded to the call of the peo¬ple, the army and the Iraqi government to defend Bagh¬dad and the holy places,” he said, referring to the surge of the jihadist Islamic State group in June 2014. The same action was taken in Syria, where Iran has supported President Bashar al-Assad`s regime with military and fi¬nancial aid, he added.
In 2010, Russia froze a deal to supply the sophis¬ticated systems to Iran, linking the decision to UN sanctions. President Vladimir Putin lifted the suspension last year fol¬lowing Iran’s deal with six world powers that curbed its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from in¬ternational sanctions.
The United States and Israel have expressed con¬cern over the missile sys¬tems, fearing they could upset the regional balance of military power.