Introduction: Rhetoric in the Rouhani Era
1. "Israel's leaders sometimes threaten Iran, but they know that if they do a damn thing, the Islamic Republic will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground."
In the Iranian system, the highest-ranking political authority is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989. Khamenei has been calling for Israel's destruction for many years.
José María Aznar, a former prime minister of Spain, recalled meeting Khamenei during his time in office in Oct. 2000. "Israel, to him, was a kind of historical cancer, an anomaly, a country to be put in flames and condemned to disappear," Aznar said. "Khamenei said very clearly that Iran must eliminate Israel and wipe it off the map."
In a Friday sermon on Dec. 15, 2000, Khamenei declared, "Iran's position, which was first expressed by the Imam [Khomeini]...is that the cancerous tumor called Israel must be uprooted from the region." A month later, he repeated his message. "The foundation of the Islamic regime is opposition to Israel and the perpetual subject of Iran is the elimination of Israel from the region."
More recently, on Nov. 20, 2013, Khamenei told an assembly of some 50,000 Basij militiamen that Israel was ready to fall. "The Zionist regime is a regime whose pillars are extremely shaky and is doomed to collapse," he said. Israelis, he added, "should not be called humans."
Lest there be any confusion about the meaning of Khamenei's words, the next day, he published a photo on Twitter that appeared to show Israeli soldiers with a German shepherd attacking a Palestinian woman. The supreme leader's statement, in plain English, was overlaid on the photo: "Israel is the sinister, unclean rabid dog of the region." In Islam, dogs are traditionally seen as impure. Adding the modifier "rabid" leaves only one interpretation about what the dog's fate should be.
2. "The Imam [Khomeini] set long-term goals for the day the occupying Zionist regime is no longer in the region. The formula for this move must be discussed in the government."
3. "The Army of Iran can by itself destroy Israel."
4. "According to the Supreme Leader’s statement marking Nowruz, if Israel acts foolishly, Tel Aviv and Haifa will be annihilated....The armed forces are prepared with all their power to execute the orders of the Supreme Leader in minimum time."
5. "Our battalions are named Imam Ali, Imam Hussein and Bayt al-Maqdis [Jerusalem] to clarify our final destination to the Basiji. We will not abandon our [armed] struggle until the annihilation of Israel and until we will be able to pray in al-Aqsa mosque."
6. "The enemies are talking about the options [they have] on the table. They should know that the first option on our table is the annihilation of Israel."
7. "We must spare no effort in liberating holy Jerusalem and cutting off the hands of the infidels from this holy site."
8. "The Zionist regime will soon be destroyed, and this generation will be witness to its destruction."
9. "The issue of Palestine is an Islamic issue. The Islamic world must come together to destroy the false Israeli regime....If this happens, nothing will be left of Israel."
10. "As the Supreme Leader has stated, if the Zionists cause any problems for Iran, Haifa and Tel Aviv will be annihilated."
11. "Iran has long-range missiles that can reach 1,500 kilometers....The Supreme Leader maintained that 'every combatant Palestinian group that fights the Zionist regime will receive the support of the Iranian regime.'"
12. "The only way to subdue the enemies is by refusing to compromise on the goals of the resistance and to remain strong; the future of criminal nations such as the Zionists will be erased from the history books."
13. "If once the destruction and demise of occupying Israel was an impossible and unattainable dream, today thanks to the historic and intelligent actions of Imam Khomeini, it has become possible and is actually in the process of occurring."
14. "The day will come when the Islamic people in the region will destroy Israel and save the world from this Zionist base."
15. "The day is near in which the sword of resistance and Islamic Awakening will cut off the blood supply of the occupiers of the holy land of Palestine."
16. "Every Muslim who does not want to fight Israel is violating religious law and essentially forgetting Israel’s crimes over the past 60 years on Islamic soil."
17. "The only solution to the Palestine problem is the destruction of the Zionist regime....We view the wondrous resistance as the only way towards a victorious and inspiring battle against the false, illegitimate Zionist regime."
18. "[The United States and Israel] should not make a mistake, because if they make even the smallest mistake, we will not remain silent and will annihilate Haifa and Tel Aviv."
19. "The destruction of Israel is the idea of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and is one of the pillars of the Iranian Islamic regime. We cannot claim that we have no intention of going to war with Israel!"
20. Iranian State Television Airs Animated Strike on Israel
Conclusion: Hostile Intent and Missile Capability
IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall is an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East. He is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Terrogence Company.
Daniel Rubenstein is an editor and researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Follow his personal Twitter account @paulrubens.