Iran’s leader vows to retaliate against any new U.N. sanctions

Special to The Times

Iran’s supreme leader struck a defiant tone Wednesday about any possible new United Nations Security Council sanctions over his country’s nuclear program, threatening to “use any means necessary” to strike back.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a televised address marking the beginning of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, said Iran would respond in kind to punitive measures and he blamed the country’s domestic divisions on foreign powers.

“If they want to threaten us and use force and violence, they should have no doubt that Iranians will use any means necessary to strike a blow against those who assault them,” Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual, political and military chief, said from the northeastern city of Mashhad, his hometown.


Enemies “seek to drive a wedge between the ranks of the nation, kill the unity of the Iranian people ... and make the Iranians preoccupied with internal divisions.”

Audience members chanted “Death to America!” several times during the speech.

The Security Council is debating additional sanctions to pressure Tehran to halt uranium enrichment, including placing an embargo on Iran’s weapons exports and freezing assets of a major bank as well as people and companies involved in the nuclear and missile programs.

The draft resolution also would ask countries to monitor the movements of certain individuals and to cut off financial assistance to Iran except for humanitarian purposes.

The Security Council’s five veto-holding members have agreed on the proposed sanctions, but South Africa, Qatar and Indonesia have offered amendments that probably will delay the vote until next week. South Africa argues that the resolution should more carefully target the nuclear program, and Qatar and Indonesia want the Middle East to become a nuclear-free zone.

Khamenei said Iran was being punished even though it had broken no laws. He hinted that Iran was prepared to violate unspecified international laws if the U.N. tried to force it to halt activities aimed at enriching nuclear material. If the U.N. “takes illegal actions, we will take illegal measures too,” he said.

International nonproliferation agreements allow countries to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes such as civilian energy use, which Iranian officials say is their aim. But enrichment is also a precursor to developing nuclear weapons, and U.S. and European officials suspect Iran is cloaking such an effort. Washington has demanded that Iran halt its enrichment activities as a show of good faith before negotiations, but Tehran has refused.

In his speech, Khamenei likened his country’s nuclear program to its nationalization of the oil industry more than 50 years ago. That action sparked a U.S.- and British-backed coup that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government. It was followed by the return of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, whose reign ended with the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“Nuclear technology is much more important than the nationalization of the oil industry,” Khamenei said.

Khamenei identified ethnic troubles and the rift between Shiite and Sunni sects of Islam as some of the most important challenges facing Iran. He declared the new year, 1386 in the Persian calendar, one of “national unity and Islamic solidarity” in the face of festering conflicts between Shiites and Sunnis in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and the Persian Gulf.

Khamenei blamed the West for exacerbating the religious and ethnic troubles in the region. “The enemy appears to be making an extensive and well-hidden move throughout the world of Islam aimed at driving a wedge between the nation of Iran and other Muslim nations, exaggerating religious differences and creating a Shiite-Sunni war in any part of the world where it can,” he said.