Iran Escalates Rhetoric as Sanctions Increase

Washington, February 3 - Iranian leaders lashed out at Israel and the United States Friday amid escalating pressure and sanctions from the international community to halt the Islamic republic’s quest for nuclear weapons.

“The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor and it will be removed," Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters in the country, told worshippers in Tehran Friday. It is the same line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has used in the past to attack Israel.

Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said in an interview he believes Iran will use nuclear weapons if it acquires them.

“Today we see the consistency in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statements and speeches over many years,” Baird told the Israeli publication Israel Hayom Friday. “Now he wants to obtain nuclear weapons. It’s very easy to put one and one together. I believe Iran will use these weapons, and that’s what we all fear.”

Iranian leaders have repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel and actively arm, fund and train their proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, designated terror organizations that sit on Israel’s borders. The United States, Israel and other countries believe Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, and Israeli officials have said time is running short to prevent the program from passing a point of no return.

Khamenei also targeted the United States, warning that any attack by America would backfire: “A war would be 10 times deadlier for the Americans… These threats indicate America's weakness and the Americans need to know that the more threats they make, the more they damage themselves," he said.

The Supreme Leader also repeated a threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route for much of the world’s oil supply.

The international community has placed four rounds of sanctions on the Islamic Republic, while the U.S. has placed its own restrictions on trade. The U.S. Senate Banking Committee on Thursday approved in a voice vote new sanctions targeting Iran's national oil and tanker firms.

"We are giving Iran's leaders a clear choice," said Sen. Tim Johnson, (D-S.D.), the committee's chairman,who co-authored the core legislation with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

"Iran can end its suppression of its own people, come clean on its nuclear program, suspend enrichment, and stop supporting terrorist activities around the globe,” Johnson said. “Or it can continue to face sustained, intensifying multilateral economic and diplomatic pressure deepening its international isolation."

Last month, President Obama signed sanctions that target foreign entities that do business with the Central Bank of Iran.

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