By Jeremy Herb - 07/02/12 03:49 PM EDT
Iran launched a three-day war games exercise on Monday as a senior official threatened that an Israeli attack would “hand us an excuse to wipe them off the face of the earth,” according to Iranian news reports.
The Iranian war games, during which missiles will be fired at targets modeled after foreign bases, are coming as a stiff European Union sanctions on Iranian oil took effect Sunday.
Hajizadeh said of an Israel attack on Iran: “If they take any action, they will hand us an excuse to wipe them off the face of the earth,” according to Reuters.
Hajizadeh’s comments echo those of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who used a similar phrase in a 2005 speech.
Israel has weighed whether to attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities to stop its nuclear program, but President Obama has tried to dissuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from taking unilateral action.
Instead, Obama has said that sanctions will drive Tehran to the negotiating table, a tactic that will to be tested in the coming weeks as the bet on sanctions is raised.
An EU ban on importing Iranian oil, which was agreed to in January, went into effect July 1, which along with U.S. sanctions could make a big dent in Iran’s economy.
Iran has entered into several rounds of negotiations with the P5+1 group, the five permanent United Nations Security Council countries plus Germany, over its nuclear program, which the Obama administration credits to the sanctions. Iran has sought to get the sanctions lifted, but the P5+1 group has not agreed to that condition.
The two sides have met three times this year, but have yet to find agreement on substantive issues.
Obama has said he is not taking any options off the table, including military ones, but he wants to use sanctions and diplomacy to persuade Iran to abandon any nuclear weapons ambitions.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and not weapons, but the United States, Israel and their allies suspect Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.
Iran has previously threatened relation for both Israeli attacks as well as the punishing sanctions from the EU and United States.
According to Iran’s Mehr News Agency, Iran’s latest war games are test-firing missiles at bases modeled after foreign powers. The tests include an Iranian anti-ship missile in the Persian Gulf, as well as surface-to-air missiles in the desert areas, according to IRNA.