Following are excerpts from an interview with General Mohammad-Ali Ja'fari, Commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on January 26, 2008.
Interviewer: What exactly happened in [the Hormuz Straits]? General Mohammad-Ali Ja'fari
: There was nothing exceptional about it. Our boats were carrying out their regular duties. What they do with regard to all military and regular vessels passing through the Hormuz Straits is the duty that was entrusted to the IRGC by Iran's navy. This is their mission. Our boats asked the warship to identify itself and declare its status. Since the warship refrained from doing so, the exchange between the two sides took a different course. That is not what the Americans said, of course, but I believe that since this happened on the eve of President Bush's visit, and since they wanted to present Iran as a military threat to the region, they fabricated this scenario in order to make Bush's visit a success, to make it a "heated" visit.
Interviewer: But General Ja'fari, we heard the voices of Iranian soldiers threatening the American warships, saying: "We will blow you up." We heard those voices. You're saying that it wasn't real? General Mohammad-Ali Ja'fari
: No, those voices were fabricated. They are not the voices of Iranian soldiers. We aired part of the real footage of what happened, and the rest of it is in our possession. Those voices were fabricated. That footage was fabricated. The voices that were heard did not belong to our soldiers.
If America attacks Iran, our first step will be to defend ourselves, with all our forces and capabilities. We will respond in kind, with all the might of the Islamic Republic. Of course, one cannot compare the power Iran has today to the power we had at the start of the war imposed on us by Saddam Hussein. Saddam launched his attack less than two years after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, and we were not ready to defend ourselves. Nevertheless, we defeated this enemy, which enjoyed the support of all the world's powers. Today, 30 years after the victory of the Revolution, we have gained war experience, and we have a lot of weapons and military equipment, and the ability for self-[production], and there have been excellent developments in this field, and our forces are better than they were in the days of the war imposed upon us. We can now defend ourselves against an American attack. America enjoys superiority only in the air, as well as in electronics and in military technology. In light of our past experience in wars and in light of the recent wars in the region, and the studies we conducted... They know that our equipment and military capabilities are inferior to theirs, and we do not have the technologically advanced weapons they have. But thanks to our special preparations, we can thwart their aerial attacks – just as has been the case in many countries in recent years. In any event, Iran will defend itself with all its might and will respond in kind. In my opinion, we can make America regret any such initiative.
Ja'fari: It so happens that the military presence of the American forces around Iran... They think that they are besieging Iran militarily, but this presence endangers the Americans themselves, as they know very well.
Interviewer: In what way? General Mohammad-Ali Ja'fari
: They may be hit by our long-range and short-range weapons, as well as our artillery and medium-range missiles. This American presence in the region and around Iran does not constitute one of their strengths. On the contrary, this is a weakness of theirs, in the military sense. An American analyst wrote this in an article I read, and it is true - unless one expects them to carry out a land attack on Iran. We do not anticipate that they will carry out such an attack. In our opinion, this is impossible. I do not expect the American military forces or the politicians in America to lose their minds and conduct such an attack, because such an operation is bound to fail.
Interviewer: When you say this is a weakness, are we to understand that you will attack all the places in the region where the Americans are present? General Mohammad-Ali Ja'fari
: Yes. The presence of the American forces in the region... If the American forces attack our land from any place, it is only natural for us to respond in kind. It is our natural and inalienable right to respond against the forces that attack our country. I know that there is concern among the neighboring Muslim countries, because there are American military forces in some of them. But if a war breaks out against us and if the American forces attack us, we have the right to respond against those forces. If they use any place to attack Iran, we may attack them with missiles. We have declared this. Of course, we will take into consideration the need to avoid endangering the peoples of the region. We will make sure to target only the American forces attacking us. We have the weapons and the missiles, as well as the necessary precision, which will enable us to target only the American military forces attacking us.