Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told air force commanders Saturday that in order to prevent war they must strengthen their military.

His speech comes as Iranian leaders mark the 41st anniversary of the Islamic revolution, which removed the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979.

“Iran must become strong in all fields,” Khamenei said, according to his official website. “One part is the military. We don’t seek to threaten anyone. Rather, our military power is for preventing the enemies’ threats. If you are weak, the enemy will dare to hurt you. We should be strong in order to prevent a war.”

In the statement, Khamenei also calls U.S. sanctions “literally crimes” but an opportunity for their economy to rely less on oil exports.

Tensions in Iran began to rise in 2018, when the U.S. pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, which seeks to limit the extent to which Iran can produce nuclear weapons in exchange for economic ties. Europe is still in the agreement with Iran, though last month they threatened Iran with sanctions of their own after learning Khamenei may have broken the original 2015 agreement.

On Jan. 3, the U.S. killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike, prompting Iran to shoot missiles at two Iraqi bases that house U.S. troops the following week. The Pentagon said last month that 34 U.S. service members suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result of the attack.

Iran also admitted to unintentionally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet that flew out of Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. Officials in the country initially blamed the crash on a technical issue and admitted responsibility three days later, after U.S. officials said there was evidence the plane was brought down by a missile.

Source » thehill