Iran's highest military official has warned that war with Israel is inevitable. His comments come as Israeli forces threaten to launch airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Iran's top military commander on Saturday said a war between Israel and Iran "will eventually happen," and that the Jewish state will be destroyed as a consequence.
"War will happen, but it is not certain where and when," General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, said at an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps military exhibition.
As speculation mounts about whether Israel intends to launch air strikes on Iran soon, Jafari told a press conference at the exhibition, "if they [Israel] begin [aggression], it will spell their destruction and will be the end of the story."
Tensions between the two countries have risen in recent weeks, with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatening a possible pre-emptive airstrike on Iranian nuclear facilities, which Israel believes are aimed at expanding Iran's atomic weapon capabilities.
Tehran maintains that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes, although it has refused access to the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to some of the sites and documentation requested for inspection.
Getting ready for war
The military commander said Iran needed to ensure it reached the highest military capability possible "in case they [Israel] acted irrationally and launched an attack."
"We are making all efforts to increase our defensive capabilities so that if there is an attack...we could defend ourselves and other countries that need our help with high defensive capabilities."
In 1981 Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor and launched a similar strike against Syria in 2007. It has threatened to do the same to Iran if it fails to cease stockpiling what it says are nuclear weapons for war.
Iran responded to the threats by saying it would target US military bases in the area, as well as Israel, if attacked.
"The shameful and cancerous tumour that is Israel is seeking war against us, but it is not known when that war will happen. They now consider war as the only way to confront us, but they are so stupid that their [US] masters should stop them," Jafari added.
Iran displayed several missiles, including ballistic weapons capable of striking Israel in its annual military parade on Friday.
Israel is set to hold missile defence exercises with US forces next month.
jlw/kms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dapd)